National Fallen Firefighters Foundation

Roll of Honor

Battalion Chief
Age: 52
Year of Death: 2001

Joseph Grzelak

Born: March 22‚ 1949
Parents: Frank and Christine Grzelak
Sister: Christine Galard
Wife: Joanne Grzelak
Daughters: Kristie and Debra
Joe graduated form Brooklyn Technical High School in 1966 and immediately enlisted in the US Marine Corps. He served in Vietnam from 1968-1969 and was honorably discharged as Sergeant in 1970.

Joe was inducted into the New York City Fire Department on March 24‚ 1973‚ starting his career at Engine 279 in Red Hook‚ Brooklyn. Joe Married his wife Joanne on March 9‚ 1974. He has two daughters‚ Kristie‚ age 26‚ and Debra‚ age 23.

He was promoted to Lieutenant in 1987‚ Captain in 1993‚ and finally to Battalion chief on July 4‚ 1998. Joe worked in many companies throughout his career: Engine 279‚ Ladder 80‚ Engine 282‚ Engine 155‚ Engine 204‚ Battalion 38 and ended his career on 9/11 at Battalion 48 in Brooklyn. During his 28-year career‚ he received two citations for rescues. Many times we have heard from firefighters how he was a ‘firefighter’s chief’ always looking out for his guys.

Joe’s body was recovered on March 23‚ 2002‚ by the last standing beam of Tower 2.

He was a ‘trivia buff’‚ often amazing family and friends with his knowledge. He earned the nickname ‘Joe Knows’ from his fellow firefighters because he knew the answer to most questions asked of him. He was also a veracious reader‚ absorbing every bit of information he read‚ whether it be from a newspaper‚ research article or a Tom Clancy book.

Joe was a sports freak and loved the NY Yankees and NY Giants. He also enjoyed watching auto racing. Recently‚ he started to take up golf and‚ at the time of his death‚ was still bowling and playing softball once a week. In fact‚ both leagues changed their names to his in memoriam. Joe also enjoyed teaching softball‚ coaching his daughters’ teams growing up‚ and winning a championship.

Joe was not only a loving and caring husband and father‚ but also a loyal friend and dedicated firefighter who loved life. He will forever remain in our hearts.

Memorial Posts


Memorial Wall

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  1. On September 10, 2016, I chose Joseph as one of the three firemen I carried during the Yellow Springs Ohio 9/11 memorial stair climb. I completed the climb in full turnout gear carrying an air pack to honor the fallen. I now carry Joseph’s information badge in my turn out gear.

    – Tony Drummond
  2. At September 16th 2017 I had the honor of carrying you over my heart at the Memorial stair climb at Lambeau Field, Green Bay Wisconsin. It was truly an emotional journey for me as I climbed the equivalent of 78 stories and rang the fireman’s Bell in your honor. My prayers go out to you and your family. Thank you Joseph Grzelak for your dedication and most of all your sacrifice.
    You will never be forgotten
    Donny Brown

    – Donny Brown
  3. I have the honor of representing Joe as my firefighter for my EMS class’s trip to the 9/11 memorial tomorrow morning. I couldn’t think of anyone I’d rather represent. This man was a true hero and a great American by all counts of the terms.

    -Felix Heuer, 14th FCHS Fire and EMS class

    – Samuel "Felix" Heuer
  4. I had the privilege of meeting Mrs. Grzelak during her afternoon as docent at the Museum. I could have spent so much longer speaking with her about her husband but she was much in demand for information. Mrs. Grzelak, this is the Richmond, Virginia visitor whom you allowed to hug you. By reading this wall, I salute as Semper Fi your Joseph since my husband is a retired Marine of the Vietnam era. I hope we can speak again and I continue to pray for your healing but believe your pride in Joe is stronger than ever and that your work at the Museum honors him so well.

    – Leslie Williams
  5. Proud to be climbing for this great man on 9/7/19 in San Diego. Prayers for his family, thank you for this reminder of the sacrifices made by many.

    – Mike Cooper
  6. I had the great honor to stitch Mr. Grzelak’s square in the Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism Memorial Flag back in 2001. I pray for his family every year as I remember the sacrifice he made.

    – Sarah Mawhinney
  7. September 12th….Chief Grzelak was around my neck and over my heart as I had the honor to remember him and thank him for his sacrifice. 2,200 stairs in Strafford, MO. “Joe Knows” Thank you Joe.

    – Clay Brown
  8. I was given Joe’s name to run in honor of during a Tunnel to Towers 5k race on 9/11/21. I carried his photo and prayed for him during my run and offered it up for his soul, and asked my family to pray for him. Oddly, a song in my running playlist that has not popped up in a while came up in the last mile of the race. It is a bagpipe version of Amazing Grace. My condolences to his family and fellow firefighters. Never forgotten.

    – Johanna
  9. On September 11, 2021, I wore Chief Grzelak’s name on the back of my ruck sack as part of the Virginia Military Institute’s memorial stair climb. I climbed 110 flights of stairs in the historic Old Barracks in honor of Joseph Grzelak. Your sacrifice will never be forgotten.

    – Cadet Joseph Slezak
  10. Joe was my second cousin. We never knew each other but I knew his Aunt Florence. I am proud of this truly honorable selfless man. Florence was my Dad’s cousin. God Bless you Joe and your family.

    – Carol Wisniewski Drury
  11. My son Randy had a bracelet he wore with Joe’s name on it. That day changed Randy. He became a paramedic and got his Master’s in Emergency Medicine. He is at the memorial today with his spouse and 5 month old son as they are visiting. All those years later it affects him.

    – Cathelene Nunn
  12. I had the great privilege and honor to walk in the 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb in Indianapolis, IN this year. I walked with him attached to my helmet. We love and honor all the men and women we lost that day. He will never be forgotten.

    – Brandon Burton