“Freddy was an all-star of a guy. He was the type of person where life always handed him lemons, but he always turned it around and made a chocolate cake out of it,” Christopher Kalisak, a close-friend, cousin and fellow member of the Broad Channel Volunteer Fire Department said of the late Fred W. Grey. Grey died unexpectedly on Saturday, November 19. He was 44.
Some may have known Grey as the raspy voice on the other line when calling a Rocapulco Car Service. Some may have played softball with him for the Jamaica Bay Softball League. Others may have known him as a 4th Degree Knight at the Knights of Columbus. Many knew him from his longtime volunteer service at the BCVFD and then the West Hamilton Volunteer Fire Department in Howard Beach. Some may remember him from occasionally serving drinks behind the bar at the old Bridge or more recently, filling in at Brendan’s Bar. On Saturday night, an empty seat at Brendan’s was left reserved for a friend who will truly be missed. Across the bridge in Broad Channel, the BCVFD shifted the focus of their annual Turkey Karaoke fundraiser at Grassy Point Pub to raise money to cover funeral costs and support the future of Grey’s 10-year-old daughter, Isabelle. The place was packed as tears were shed between smiles and laughs as those he impacted remembered him.
“No matter what was gong on, he had a smile on his face and he’d always give everybody a good laugh,” close friend Michael McGee said. “He was a great guy all around. If he had to give, he’d give it to you. Half the time if he didn’t have to give, he’d give it to you.” Kalisak added, “he was the type of person that one day you loved and the next day you wanted to choke him, but when it came down to it, he would do anything for you.”
Grey’s desire to give back to others was clear through his many years of service with volunteer fire departments. According to Chief Dan McIntyre, he joined the BCVFD around 2000. Grey, Badge #417, was a former lieutenant at the Broad Channel firehouse. He was one of four members who responded to the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 aboard Ambulance 303 and was injured when one of the buildings collapsed. Those who knew him said he never recovered physically and mentally from the effects of that day. “His injuries after 9/11 were more than physical. He had PTSD. Ever since then, he was never the same,” Kalisak, who was with him that day, said.
Yet he continued to dedicate his time to the firehouse. Grey responded to the crash of Flight 587 in Belle Harbor on November 12, 2001. He received numerous Unit Citations and the Medal of Exceptional Bravery throughout his time in Broad Channel. In 2008, he went on to volunteer for West Hamilton Beach. “He wanted a change of scenery and he couldn’t perform firefighting duties anymore because of his physical injuries, so he went on to be the dispatcher for West Hamilton Beach,” McIntyre said. It was a no brainer that Grey was elected as President of the Volunteer Fireman’s Association of the City of New York, representing seven of the NYC Volunteer Fire Departments.
Grey made a large impact during his life that was cut short. “His deep, raspy voice, great sense of humor and most of all his friendship and dedication to the brotherhood will be sorely missed amongst us all throughout the fire service,” the BCVFD said in a statement. “He’s gone way too soon,” Kalisak said. “Every time I call a cab, I wait to hear his voice or I wait for him to walk through the door, break my chops and order a beer,” McGee said at Healy’s Pub.
Grey is survived by his father, Fred Grey, mother, Maureen Gallagher (Eddie), and daughter, Isabelle. A wake was held for Grey at Denis S. O’Connor Funeral Home on Tuesday, November 22. The funeral Mass is at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, November 23 at St. Camillus Church, followed by an interment at Calvary Cemetery. Donations can be made to the GoFundMe campaign to help cover funeral costs and support his family at www.gofundme.com/help-for-the-family-of-fred-grey.
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