FDNY Captain John Graziano remembered for his bravery and selflessness

Mira Wassef, Staten Island Advance

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — An Eltingville firefighter had dreams of being a rock star, but when hitting it big didn’t happen, he went on to find his true passion in life.

Capt. John Graziano of Ladder 78 in New Brighton was a talented guitarist who left college to tour the country with his band. But before he did, he promised his mother if he didn’t make it, he would return to school and finish his degree.

Captain John Graziano

Captain John Graziano

He kept his word and, a few years later, he discovered being a firefighter was his calling.

Graziano, 63, died Friday after a 20-month battle with pancreatic cancer. His death was the result of a 9/11-related illness, the family said.

The 26-year veteran was diagnosed in 2012 and was told he had the cancer for several years, according to longtime friend Greg Sclafani, who was also a firefighter.

“He was a fantastic individual and giving without expecting anything in return,” he said. “If you met John, you’d never forget him. He was a jovial man, like a gentle giant. He reminded us of Jackie Gleason because he kind of looked like him and was funny, always the life of the party.”

Graziano was a lieutenant at Ladder 132 in Brooklyn on September 11; six men from his firehouse died in the terrorist attacks.

He then spent three months working with the rescue and recovery operation at the World Trade Center site.

He became a firefighter when he was 31, and was quickly promoted through the ranks before joining the New Brighton firehouse in 2003. During his time with Ladder 78, one of the firefighters there saved a woman who had jumped into the waters of Kill van Kull.

“He excelled at it and then fell in love with being a firefighter,” said friend Brian Grisanti, who worked with Graziano. “He was an outstanding firefighter, very aggressive. He was like a one-man demolition team.”

His buddies encouraged him to retire in 2008 so he could join them as a member of the NYC Fire Riders Motorcycle Club. He bought a Harley and learned to ride so he could travel around the country.

“It was a little scary just being in a car with him, but him being on a motorcycle is worse,” Sclafani said.

Surviving Graziano are his wife of 41 years, Patricia; two sons, John Jr. and Joseph; a brother, Joseph; a sister, Janet DiMaggio, and three grandchildren.

The funeral arrangements are being handled by the Colonial Funeral Home, New Dorp.

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