Modest Man of Action
Since he was a boy, Gregg Froehner yearned for a job where he could serve others. When he was a teenager, he became an Eagle Scout and a volunteer firefighter. After college, he became a police officer with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
Mr. Froehner, 46, was assigned to the PATH system in Jersey City, and was a unit leader for the Emergency Services Unit. Yet he never bragged about the rescues he was involved in.
Many people who knew him in Chester, N.J., where he lived with his wife, Mary, and four children, did not even know what he did for a living. His wife usually only found out about his daring episodes when she overheard his nightly conversations with his boss, whom they sometimes referred to as his "other wife."
Mrs. Froehner used to work as a nurse in a nursing home, and one of her patients was Mr. Froehner's grandfather. One day, he told her, "You look like somebody my grandson should meet."
This information was passed on to Mr. Froehner's father, who urged Mr. Froehner to go visit his grandfather soon at the nursing home. Mary and Mr. Froehner clicked immediately.
When he was home, Mr. Froehner was a total family man, his wife said. "He loved his children more than anything in the world," she said in her eulogy. "This could be seen in the way he always called Katie his little smiley face, by coaching Matt's team in Little League, by laughing to himself all the way across the room at one of Heather's jokes and by teasing Meghan that she couldn't date until she was 25."
Profile published in THE NEW YORK TIMES on November 12, 2001.
Gregg Froehner, 46, always in the action
When terrorists bombed the World Trade Center in 1993, Gregg Froehner was there to help. He was there a year ago when an out-of-control elevator carrying a dozen passengers slammed into a tower's ceiling.
And he was there Sept. 11 after two hijacked planes hit the Twin Towers. But this time, the Port Authority police officer and member of the emergency service unit never made it out.
"They did their job like they were trained to do," Port Authority Police Sgt. John Gilburn said of Mr. Froehner and 36 other Port Authority officers lost when the Twin Towers collapsed.
Gilburn knew Mr. Froehner, 46, of Chester, for more than two decades. The two started with the Port Authority just months apart and worked together for years in the emergency service unit, where Mr. Froehner was a squad leader.
Mr. Froehner, who started in 1979, had specialized training in numerous rescue areas and completed a counterterrorism course in toxic and biological agents in 1995. He also was good with his hands, fellow officers said, and could fix equipment in the field with whatever material might be available.
"He was one of those guys everybody wanted to have around," said Gilburn, now assigned to Newark International Airport. "He was a fun-loving guy, easy going. He was a character."
More than a decade ago, Gilburn remembered losing a plaid tie at a Christmas party, one his wife had given him. It wasn't until several years later that he found out what happened to it.
"All these years went by and this tie just reappeared -- and he (Mr. Froehner) was wearing it," Gilburn said, laughing. The "tie issue" became a running joke among the friends (and Gilburn's tie eventually got sent back to him).
Port Authority Sgt. Kevin Murphy also worked in the emergency service unit with Mr. Froehner, saying the more experienced officer would pick up his comrades' spirits by telling stories of his former life as a milkman. Mr. Froehner also liked to golf, although as Murphy put it, "Gregg wasn't exactly Tiger Woods."
During a summer of 2000 charity golf outing, Murphy said their foursome came to a short hole where the green was on an island surrounded by rocks. Mr. Froehner took out a club that if hit properly would provide far too much distance and made a pronouncement: I'm going to skip the ball on the water three times, hit the rocks and land it on the green.
He swung. The ball skipped over the water, hit the rocks and landed on the green, 39 inches from the hole. Murphy and the others went crazy. Mr. Froehner just smiled and walked back to his cart.
As for the rest of his round? "Horrible," said Murphy, laughing.
Mr. Froehner is survived by his wife, Mary; a son, Matthew, 13; three daughters, Meghan, 15, Heather, 14, and Kathleen, 10; his parents, Kenneth and Anna Froehner of Chester; a brother, Kenneth Froehner of Pompton Lakes, and a sister, Dorell McNamara of Chester.
Visiting hours are from 1-5 p.m. Saturday at the William J. Leber Funeral Home in Chester. A funeral Mass will be offered at 3 p.m. Sunday at St. Lawrence Roman Catholic Church in Chester.
Interment will be private.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be sent to the Froehner/Gilbert College Fund, c/o Bank of New York, 444 E. Main St., Chester, N.J. 07930, or the Gregg Froehner Memorial Fund, P.O. Box 55, Flanders, N.J. 07836.
Profile by Greg Saitz published in THE STAR-LEDGER.