Jack C. Zoppo, 45, city firefighter honored several times for rescues

October 14, 2004|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Jack C. Zoppo, a Baltimore City Fire Department lieutenant honored several times for rescues during a 19-year career, died of kidney cancer Saturday at his home in Stewartstown, Pa. The former Parkville resident was 45.

"He was a man of courage in all aspects of his life," Fire Chief William J. Goodwin Jr. said yesterday. "He was a good leader and took care of the guys he worked with, his family and his friends. He also took his life and his job very seriously."

Born in Baltimore and raised in Parkville, he graduated from Parkville High School in 1976 and served in the Air Force as a fire protection specialist.

He joined the city department in 1986, and was assigned for much of his career to Truck Company 10 at West Lafayette Avenue and North Stricker Street. He was promoted to emergency vehicle driver in 1990 and named a lieutenant in 2000. He ended his career at Engine 6 in Oldtown.

Lieutenant Zoppo received the Exemplary Performance Award in 1995 for rescuing three people from the second floor of a burning home on North Mount Street. His honors also included a mayoral citation for the 1999 rescue of a city worker trapped in an asphalt-laying machine on Dulany Street.

"He was respected throughout the entire department for his firefighting ability and his skills as an officer," Battalion Commander Raymond O. Devilbiss said yesterday. "He was an extremely good leader and could make things get done because his crews respected him. He was a jovial, personable, warm and compassionate man."

Friends also recalled his humility. "No one should be rewarded for just doing their job; I love my job and am lucky to be able to go to work," they recalled him as saying.

Lieutenant Zoppo was told he had kidney cancer in April 2001. He underwent two surgeries and several clinical trials at Johns Hopkins Hospital's Kimmel Cancer Center.

"He would go to the cancer center to receive treatment, and then go immediately to work, or vice-versa," said his wife of 11 years, the former Sonya Corsello. "I never knew him to utter the word `No.' He was always willing to work any holiday for any of his co-workers who had children."

Until the diagnosis, Lieutenant Zoppo maintained a nearly perfect attendance record on the job.

"When told his medical odds were low, he just pushed on harder," Chief Goodwin said.

Lieutenant Zoppo worked out regularly and lifted weights for more than 28 years. He appeared in a 1998 Fire Department calendar sold as a charity fund-raiser.

In his free time, he helped friends with concrete construction work. Colleagues said he frequently would leave a concrete job, go to Gold's Gym and work out, then head to a night shift at the firehouse.

Lieutenant Zoppo and his family enjoyed traveling and attending Orioles and Ravens games.

A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10 a.m. tomorrow at the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Mary Our Queen, 5200 N. Charles St., with interment in the fallen heroes section of Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens.

Survivors, in addition to his wife, include a son, Charles Jacob "Jake" Zoppo, 7; a daughter, Jacqueline Frieda Zoppo, 9; his father, Charles Zoppo of Parkville; six sisters; Susan Stuart of Phoenix in Baltimore County, Nancy Barnaba of Ocean City, Patti McGurrin of Parkville and Debbie Myers, Linda Jones and Judy Canella, all of Baltimore.

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