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Subject: Joe Rizzo, Former Philadelphia Fire Commissioner and brother of Mayor Frank Rizzo

Dead at 95
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Date Posted: Tuesday, June 09, 12:12:45pm


Joe Rizzo, former Philadelphia Fire Commissioner and brother of Frank, has died at 95
by Rob Tornoe,

Joseph R. Rizzo, a former Philadelphia fire commissioner and the brother of former mayor and police commissioner Frank Rizzo, died Monday night of natural causes. He was 95.

Rizzo, who raised his family in Mount Airy before retiring to Avalon, N.J., worked in the city’s fire department for 37 years before being promoted to fire commissioner when his brother was elected mayor in 1972. Rizzo served as commissioner for 12 years before resigning in 1984. For many years while he was a firefighter, Rizzo held a second job driving a truck for the Inquirer. He also served in the Navy during World War II.

“He was tough, but he had a very good sense of humor,” said daughter Diane Rizzo. "One of his favorite sayings was, ‘I almost made a mistake once, when I thought I was wrong.’ "

Following his tenure as commissioner, Rizzo spent 28 years coordinating investigative work for law firm Cozen O’Conner. Christopher Fallon, a partner at Cozen O’Conner, said Rizzo was a mentor to an entire generation of lawyers and was instrumental to the growth of the firm.

Patrick O’Connor, the firm’s vice chairman and a longtime friend of Rizzo, said he was informed of his death by the family Tuesday morning. O’Connor said he had lunch with Rizzo about four months ago, but that he had been sick for the past year, and recently went into hospice care.

“He was a dear friend and a great citizen. He was really an inspiration to me,” O’Connor said. “He was always in the shadow of his brother, but he was great in his own way... a marvelous man, but humble. Very humble."

Rizzo was close with his older brother, Frank. According to a 1991 Inquirer story, as children the two shared a bedroom in a South Philadelphia rowhouse — their two other brothers, Ralph and Anthony, shared another. When Frank Rizzo was elected mayor in 1972, he tapped Joseph to become fire commissioner, passing over 72 others in the department with more seniority.

“He’s the finest gift God gave me next to my wife and children,” Frank Rizzo said of Joseph in 1978.

Rizzo is survived by six of his seven children: Joe. Jr., Theresa, Diane, Peggy, Pat, and John. Marie, his oldest daughter, died in 2017. His wife, Marge died in 1992.

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