He Liked to Make Others Laugh

January 28, 2002

Dinnertime had always been a comedy show at the Henry household in Brooklyn. And Joey Henry, 25, was right in the thick of it.

From his usual spot at the table near the terrace door in the family's Ulmer Park co-op, Henry, the youngest of four brothers, would make his five siblings laugh with funny faces and crazy body movements. And Henry would regularly yell random things - like what the family was eating - toward the outside.

"He was pretty much a clown," said Henry's brother Danny, 31. "He liked to laugh and make other people laugh."

These days, there's a major void at the Henrys' table. Joseph Patrick Henry, a firefighter assigned to Ladder Co. 21 in Manhattan, died when he responded to the attacks on the World Trade Center.

He was one of three of the Henry children who had moved out of his parent's home. But they didn't go far. They moved into apartments in the same building. And they regularly gathered for meals, especially on Sunday.

"We are a very close family," said his mother, Alice Henry.

Henry always wanted to be a fireman, his family said, and is one of three brothers to join the department. His uncle is a captain, and his grandfather was a battalion chief. His father, Edward Henry, is also a battalion chief, and he seriously injured his back at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11.

After dinner, as his son left for the 24-hour shift that brought him to the World Trade Center that day, Edward Henry told his son, "see you at the big one."

Henry, who complained sometimes that his company wasn't called to enough fires, responded: "Dad, we don't go to many big ones in our house."

"I just said it to him joking around, but we were both at the big one it seems ... " Edward Henry said, his voice trailing off. "None of his company has been recovered."

Henry grew up in Brooklyn and loved baseball, especially the Yankees. His brothers taught him to hit lefty, and he played catcher and infield at Lafayette High School. He continued to play straight through this past summer in an adult league.

When he was 14, his team won the Gil Hodges League North Atlantic Regional Championship and traveled to Spring, Texas, for the league world series.

After high school, Henry went to Staten Island College for two years before joining the fire department emergency medical technician cadet program. He was certified as an EMT and responded to emergencies in the Fort Greene area of Brooklyn.

After 2 1/2 years there, Henry joined the fire department in October 2000.

His fun-loving personality was perfect around the firehouse, his family said. "He was always fooling around, always joking around," his father said.

He was also compassionate. Henry's sister Kathleen, 18, remembers a time right before Sept. 11, when she was going to a wedding and didn't like how her hair looked. "He just kept saying, 'Kathleen you look beautiful, you look beautiful,'" she said.

"He was so sweet. He was getting older, but he always had that little boy in him," she said. "He always wanted to have fun. I guess he was my favorite. I could tell him anything."

Tom Spezzano, Henry's coach from the championship team that went to Texas, recently sent Alice Henry a note with a picture of Joey from that year.

"The team came first when he was a kid," Spezzano wrote in the note, "and those thousands of innocent people came first on Sept. 11."

-- Steven Kreytak (Newsday)