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Emergency services community grieves loss of John Kalynych

To many first responders throughout the greater Lehigh Valley, John Kalynych was a giant in the emergency services community.

When he died unexpectedly at age 50 on Aug. 27, a shutter of disbelief went through that community.

Kalynych was a former director of Lehigh County Emergency Management services until he retired from there and joined the Lehigh County district attorney’s office part-time, serving on the DA’s Municipal Emergency Response Team.

“John’s passion was helping others,” said Tanya Hook, the current director of Lehigh County Emergency Management.

“One of the last Facebook messages John posted a few days prior to his passing, summed up his life,” Hook said. “Don’t believe in luck, believe in hard work,” was Kalynych’s message.

“That posting was a motto that describes John’s life,” Hook said. “He was always working hard to build and maintain relationships, spend time with family and help others in need.

“He could always be counted on during an emergency situation,” Hook said. “He would be the guy who either knew the answer or knew the person with the right equipment, or the training and expertise to get the job done.”

Hook said in the nearly 20 years Kalynych spent with the county, “his passion helped to position public safety as one of the county’s highest-rated services to our citizens.”

“His determination and dedication to the development of the public safety community earned Lehigh County emergency management tremendous respect,” Hook said.

Kalynych began his career with Lehigh County as a part-time member of the county’s special operations team from 2003 to 2010.

He became the team’s full-time coordinator in 2010, before being promoted to director of Lehigh County Emergency Management in 2019.

He retired from that position in 2021 and later joined the District Attorney’s office.

Kalynych was also a volunteer firefighter. He served in several fire service positions in Northampton County, including as past deputy chief of the Catasauqua Fire Department.

He most recently served as safety officer for Lower Saucon Fire Rescue at the department’s Se-Wy-Co fire station.

Tributes and condolences fill page after page on Kalynych’s Facebook social media site and on first responder organizations’ social media through out the region.

After an autopsy Aug. 29, Lehigh County Coroner Daniel Buglio ruled the manner death as “natural,” but did not release the cause of death.

“I have made contact with John’s family,” Buglio said in a news release. “I discussed the autopsy results with John’s family and again offered my heartfelt condolences.

“I’d like John’s family to continue to grieve privately as they cope with the sudden and unexpected death of John. For that reason, I am not (publicly) releasing the cause of death at this time,” Buglio said.

Press Photos by Jim Marsh As an emergency responder, John Kalynych always wanted to be on the scene where he could be most helpful. As a mutual aid firefighter with Lower Saucon Fire Rescue's Se-Wy-Co station, Kalynych is shown at a serious residential fire on East Rock Road, atop South Mountain in Salisbury Township, on Jan. 28, 2016, where he had just finished checking the home's interior for hot spots.
As head of the Lehigh County Special Operations team, John Kalynych, center, directs operations at a hazardous materials incident at a business office along Cedar Crest Boulevard in February, 2013.
As full-time coordinator of the Lehigh County Special Operations team, John Kalynych conducts a hazardous materials decontamination refresher course for area firefighters in March, 2015.