Chief Jack Lerch, 88, a long time friend and world recognized SME of the FDNY has passed away. Chief Lerch was a supporter and an integral part of the FDNY his entire life. For many years, he worked at the Mand Library at the FDNY Fire Academy, which houses historical documents, books, and publications about the FDNY. He has been collecting data and photographs of New York City fire apparatus since 1945. Jack is the FDNY Honorary Chief of Department and often took part in fundraising to support the Department and the NYC Fire Museum. He was a constant presence at FDNY memorial services and the Department’s annual Medal Day celebration, including taking part in funding the Thomas A. Kenny Memorial Medal through his role as President of the FDNY Honorary Fire Officers Association.
The Department also presents the Honorary Chief of Department Jack Lerch Medal each year to a uniformed or civilian member of the Bureau of Fleet Services for outstanding service. He was the founder and editor of the Bell Club News Notes, which contributes a vast amount of time and effort to the Fire Museum. Commissioner Nigro says, “If you had a question about the history of the FDNY, you didn’t need to google it or go to an encyclopedia, you just had to ask Jack. He was our Department’s chief historian, he proudly served his country, and he was a great friend to everyone who ever wore the uniform of the FDNY. He will be sorely missed by all of us.
Jack grew up on Girard Avenue near Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. As a youngster he would ride his bike to the local fire houses and take snapshots of the various rigs. He eventually traveled throughout the entire city, compiling a priceless photo collection of the Department’s rolling stock and a personal knowledge of the specifications of fire apparatus.
After a stint in The US Army as a paratrooper and as a Federal firefighter on Governors Island, Jack pursued a career in the insurance industry. His first love remained, however, the FDNY. He became a key member of the Fire Bell Club of New York, serving as Vice President, on the Board of Directors, and in the 1960s founded and wrote the Bell Club Newsletter, which continues to be published. (If you don’t subscribe to it you should as it is a great source of up-to-date information on the FDNY.) Jack also served for years assisting WNYF in both editing and subscription.
Jack used his knowledge of fire apparatus to advise the FDNY on bid specifications. He would weekly travel to the FDNY Shops to advise and track the status of the Department’s fleet. His contributions during the post 911 turbulence were immeasurable.
Jack also served as President of the FDNY Honorary Fire Officers Association for several decades. A major networking group, it is a source of emergency funding for equipment not appropriated in the City budget but needed to assist in department operations. Countless chiefs, officers, and Firefighters are indebted to Jack and the FDNY HFOA for underwriting these items.
Jack performed all of these services on a volunteer basis. He never took a nickel from the city of New York or the FDNY. Through it all Jack was a generous and gracious gentleman, always willing to share his contacts, knowledge, and wisdom. Information from the FBCNY: https://www.firebellclub.org/ )
MEMORIAL INFORMATION FROM CHIEF LERCH’S SON:
“My family and I would like to thank everyone for your condolences and support. Jack wishes were to be cremated and his ashes will be kept by my mom, so there will be no burial service at this time. However we will be having a viewing at the following funeral home on Saturday 12/21, (2-4pm) & (6-8pm), as well as Sunday 12/22, (2-4pm) at Sinatra Funeral Home-499 Yonkers Avenue-Yonkers, NY 10704”
In lieu of flowers, if any one wishes to make a donation to the FDNY Honorary Fire Officers Association (HFOA). Please send to Stuart Forman at 56 Glenwood Road, Plainview, NY 11803
Rest In Peace Chief.