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Cleveland FD marks 50th anniversary of 2 firefighter LODDs

Firefighters Edward Gresky Jr. and John McNamee died in the line of duty in 1974 while trying to save others


On Thursday, June 20, 2024, the Cleveland Division of Fire honored the 50th anniversary of the deaths of fallen firefighters John McNamee and Edward Gresky, Jr.

Olivia Mitchell/TNS

By Olivia Mitchell

CLEVELAND, Ohio — The Cleveland Division of Fire on Thursday honored the 50th anniversary of two firefighters who died in the line of duty.

Retirees, current members and cadets joined the families of firefighters Edward Gresky Jr . and John McNamee at the Cleveland Fire Training Academy at 3101 Lakeside Ave. to praise the two men who died while saving others.

“If you are in danger, if you’re at risk, if you’re in need, we will risk our lives to find and save you,” said Anthony Luke, the city’s fire chief. “That is our commitment. That is our promise. Firefighters Gresky and McNamee honored that commitment. We will forever be grateful for their bravery and so sorry for the loss to their lovely families.”

Gresky was 43 when he died on Feb. 12, 1974, at a building on West 9th Street and Frankfort Avenue. On the rescue mission, the floor collapsed, and he fell into the basement. Firefighters breached an outside wall to get to Gresky, but he died.

He was survived by his wife, Catherine. His two sons, Scott and Edward, and two daughters, Jill and Susan, attended the ceremony.

“That changed my mom’s life forever,” Scott Gresky said. “Because now she had to be both the mother and the father, and how tragic that was. But she had a purpose.”

Scott Gresky said his dad grew up in Cleveland, played football in high school and served in the U.S. Marine Corps. When his father returned home from Korea, wounded, he met his wife, Catherine.

Scott said his father loved being a firefighter. He appreciated the camaraderie and lived by their chalkboard of rules.

McNamee died on Dec. 7, 1974, while he attempted to save a fourth victim at the Hawley House Hotel at West 3rd and St. Clair Avenue. The firefighter removed his face mask to allow victims to breathe from his air pack. Six firefighters and five hotel residents were hospitalized from the incident. McNamee was 31.

During the ceremony, Brent Collins, the executive director of Bluecoats Inc., presented plaques to the families of the honorees. The group is a nonprofit devoted to caring for the families of safety officers who have died or cannot care for themselves.

McNamee’s wife, Marilyn, and daughters Christine, Margaret, and Jacqueline thanked the Bluecoats for the help the group provided to their family after the death of her father.

“For my mom, a young mother at the time, who found herself to now raise three young girls on her own, the Bluecoats helped us in our (time of) need,” Christine said.

“Growing up, we always had food on the table and clothes on our backs. We never did without. My sisters and I were the first in her family to go to college. Because the Bluecoats paid for our college tuition and all expenses. Thank you.”

Scott Gresky also paid tribute to “the wonderful organization” that he and his brother thanked for its support.

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