Go-Getter Dished Out Pranks at the Firehouse

December 21, 2001

At 5 feet, 6 inches, Allan Tarasiewicz, 45, was the shortest man in Staten Island's Rescue Co. 5, so short the rest of the guys built him a little booster step so he could climb into the rig.

Plus, that name - who could pronounce it? They gave up and called him "Taz."

But if Taz took a lot of teasing, he dished it right back, said Patricia Tarasiewicz, his wife of 24 years. Her favorite revenge story was the time he prepared chicken cutlets for everyone in the firehouse. When one of the men complained about how tough his was, he found out he was eating a breaded, fried, dirty old sponge.

"He was the crazy man of the firehouse," his wife said with satisfaction.

A Navy man's daughter, she fell in love at first sight when she spotted the young Marine at a base in Italy and decided he was the sexiest man she'd ever seen. She wed him soon after in a military ceremony at Governor's Island, and had his two kids, Allan Jr., now 23, and Melissa, 20. She followed him to jobs in California and Colorado before he landed with the fire department 11 years ago.

His wife says the men of Rescue 5 were always very close. Just now, the survivors of September's devastation, which killed 11 in the company, have teamed up to do home repairs for the wives of those 11 men.

Taz, a go-getter who got everyone in the firehouse certified in scuba diving, also left plenty of home repairs behind for them. Like a lot of firefighters, he and his wife had bought a century-old fixer- upper in Staten Island two years ago, she said, and he was in the middle of a gut-rehab project when he left for a mandatory overtime shift Sept. 11. His body was found in what had been the 40th floor of the south tower.

"The guys came over and put a new roof on and did the outside steps," his wife said in a phone interview this week, the sounds of stomping and banging echoing over the line. "They're painting today."

-- Elizabeth Moore (Newsday)