Joseph Grzelak

New York, New York


Send Flowers

Firefighting With Research
Around the firehouse, they called him Joe Knows. The chief of Battalion 48 in Brooklyn, Joseph Grzelak had been fighting fires for 28 years and memorizing trivia for even longer. During slow shifts he could be found at his computer, researching everything from home repair to bowling strategies. He was a history buff who read two newspapers a day, breezed through crossword puzzles and answered all manner of arcane questions for friends and colleagues (hence the nickname).

"We encouraged him to try out for 'Jeopardy,'" Chief Grzelak's wife, Joanne, said. "He'd watch it, and most of the time he was right on the money."

Chief Grzelak, 52, had a mathematical mind that benefited the men he supervised. "He was very rational about fighting fires," Mrs. Grzelak said. "When the younger guys would ask him how to approach a certain situation, he always came up with the best advice."

When he raced to the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, Chief Grzelak took a binder full of research he had compiled over the years about fighting high-rise fires. It was found, Mrs. Grzelak said, in his crushed car.

Profile published in THE NEW YORK TIMES on December 13, 2001.

BATTALION CHIEF JOSEPH GRZELAK, 52, of New York, was in a bowling alley in 1970 when he saw a woman and told his friends he would get a date with her. He did better than that #8211 the two were eventually married. Grzelak, a Vietnam veteran, began his career with the New York Fire Department in 1973. "I didn't just lose my husband that day," Joanne Grzelak said. "I lost my best friend." Grzelak had earned citations for lifesaving heroics during his career. A trivia buff, he even earned the nickname "Joe Knows" from his fellow firefighters. "He was the perfect combination of a father and a friend," said his daughter Debra Grzelak.

Guest Book

Not sure what to say?

We send our continued deep sympathy to your family for your loss. With each new day may God give the needed help and comfort as you try to cope. Joe touched the lives of others both privately and publicly and will always be fondly remembered.

Rest In Peace Mr G !!

Yesterday we gave tribute to Chief Grzelak. Though we never met him, his memory is our connection to the grist of America and to those who gave their life unexpectedly and fully. We send our loving regards to his family and friends.

Your bravery Joe will never be forgotten.

My husband, a firefighter in Washington state, received a "Joe Knows" t-shirt many years ago. When I went to NYC this last November, I felt honored to locate Joe's name in both the Museum and Memorial. In this humble way, this extraordinary man lives on...and on. Blessings to his wife, daughters, family and friends.

Sincere regards,

Rest In Peace Mr G !!

Merry Christmas dear brother, not a days goes by that I am not thinking about. Love and miss you. xoxo

Yesterday we did a 9/11 Memorial walk at Disneyland in California. I had the pleasure of walking in memory of Joseph. I would like to thank him for being a hero and an inspiration to us all. May God bless his family.

Rest Easy Brother !!