Juan Namnun got a lot of his baseball acumen from his dad.
Namnun, a 1995 graduate of Frankford High School and the baseball coach at the school, was the son of a man by the same name who shared his love of baseball.
In fact, the older Namnun, who was born in San Juan, Dominican Republic, played professional baseball before having three kids, Juan-Andres, Veronica Cool and his youngest son, Juan.
Their father had many true loves in their life, but baseball was definitely one of them and he passed that on to his youngest son.
“He took baseball very serious, he was like a Latino Coach (Bob) Peffle,” Namnun said. “He played it at a very high level, he never made the majors, but he was paid for playing so he was a professional. He loved playing in San Juan because he loved representing his town. He loved it there.”
A love of the sport isn’t the only thing Namnun got from dad. And now, in his father’s memory, he and his family are trying to give back to the town that their dad, who passed away on Aug. 1, loved so much.
After his baseball career was over, Namnun founded San Juan’s fire department in 1953 because he wanted to do something to keep his town safe.
This summer, to memorialize their father, the family returned to San Juan and they were contacted by the fire department, which wanted to give its first fire chief a last ride through his hometown.
The ride was perfect. It was a fitting tribute to a man who loved the town.
Unfortunately, the truck was not.
“They brought my dad’s truck out of storage, and that one had a lot of problems, but then we saw the actual truck they use and it’s not in very good shape,” Namnun said. “The ladder wouldn’t fully extend, it didn’t have a windshield and the gauges weren’t working. This is the only truck the department has and it’s responsible for keeping an entire town safe. We just knew we had to do something.”
Once they returned home, his three children decided the best way they could honor their father’s legacy is to raise money to help the San Juan Fire Department get a “new” fire truck. The cost of a brand new fire truck is very expensive, so they are hoping to raise $20,000, which would be enough money to get a functional truck, and then ship the truck as well as many other necessities fire departments could need to San Juan.
“We want them to be safe and we want that fire department to be dependable,” Namnun said. “First of all, they did a great job honoring my father. Their chief does everything the same way my father did things because the plan my father put in place was so good. That place was so important to my dad.
“But you also want to do it because you want the town to be safe. It’s such a great town that was so important to my father. It was important to all of us, but we know that it was a special place for my father. We moved here not because we didn’t like it there, but because my dad knew there were better opportunities for education here. My family is really an ‘American Dream’ story, and just like Frankford is so important to me because it’s my home, San Juan is important to my father.”
The first thing the family did to raise awareness was to create bracelets they asked people to wear. Namnun, who does some work for the Phillies through their RBI program and also worked as a translator for some of the Spanish-speaking players, sent a batch of the bracelets to the team. But they didn’t ask for money. Now, they have a gofundme campaign to raise the money needed.
“We know times are tough, but we’re asking people to give whatever they can spare and it’s all going towards the department,” Namnun said. “We want to make sure the truck is what they need. It’s expensive, but if they don’t have it, they won’t be able to efficiently do the job and that’s not safe.”
Namnun, who loves giving back to the Frankford community, is happy he’s able to help the place he was born.
But it’s even more special because he knows how much this would mean to his father.
“My dad was always all about family and community,” said Namnun, whose mom lives in Rhawnhurst. “My dad owned stores and he would always do whatever he could to make sure people had what they needed. He would give huge discounts to people, families or single parents, because he wanted to make sure they had what they need. I think we all got that from him.
“This is something that we’re so happy to do because we know it’s something he would love. We’ve been lucky to have a lot of local fire departments help out by sending supplies. Cape May, Cinnaminson, Palmyra and Delran, among others, have helped out because they know how important it is. I like to think my dad would be really proud.” ••
To contribute, visit gofundme.com/fire-engine-camion-de-bomberos