A Cop-Turned-Firefighter Who Was All Hero

November 6, 2001

After reading hundreds of pages on the different aspects of fighting fires, such as the construction of buildings and equipment management, John Gerard Chipura of Staten Island would quiz his fellow firefighters at Engine Co. 219 in Brooklyn.

He was "into being the best he could be," said firefighter Peter DiSalvo, also of Engine 219.

On Sept. 11, Chipura, 39, was last seen helping rescue people from Tower Two.

Before joining the New York City Fire Department in 1998, "Chip," a nickname given to him by the firefighters in his company, was a member of the New York Police Department for 12 years. He was assigned first to the 72nd Precinct in Brooklyn, where he worked for seven years, before joining Brooklyn South Narcotics in 1994. He returned to the 72nd Precinct as a detective three years later.

DiSalvo said Chipura's success as a police officer was a testament to his professionalism. "He spoke to the bad guys like a man," DiSalvo said. "He would confront them and tell them he had a job to do."

Officer Pat Quinlan, who worked with Chipura at the 72nd Precinct, said Chipura never took anything personally and always helped fellow officers, offering them career advice and guidance. "He would pull recruits off to the side and talk to them about the pitfalls of the job," he said. "He always tried to help out the new officers."

Lt. Jack Cambria, who supervised Chipura's squad in 1991, said Chipura was compassionate about people's needs.

Chipura served in the Marines from 1980 until 1984. He was stationed in Beirut on Oct. 23, 1983, when terrorists bombed the Marine barracks there, killing 241. Chipura was not injured in the attack. He returned to the United States and was honorably discharged in 1987.

Chipura joined the Boy Scouts in 1974, and rose to the rank of assistant scoutmaster.

About two months ago, troop members left an enlarged, laminated picture of Chipura on the door of his Staten Island home. Underneath the picture were the words "Boy Scout, USMC, NYPD, NYFD: Our Hero."

Chipura's fiancee, Gina DeFalco, of Staten Island, called him her mentor. His kindness and ability to give without reservation spilled over into his home life, she said.

"He just helps with everything," DeFalco said. "John was so much to me."

In addition to his fiancee, Chipura is survived by his brother, Gerard, his twin sister, Susan Cohen, and sisters Eileen Cella and Nancy Chipura, all of Staten Island.

-- Nick Iyer (Newsday)


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