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Carson City battalion chief’s death a shock

by F.T. Norton
ftnorton@nevadaappeal.com
Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal
NEVADA APPEAL | NEVADA APPEAL

The day before Thanksgiving, Carson City Fire Battalion Chief Richard Chrzanowski and his family learned he had inoperable brain cancer.

And the day before New Year’s, with his family by his side, the cancer took his life.

“The doctors said he had four weeks. We got five,” his wife of 33 years, June, said Thursday from their East Carson City home.

The speed and ruthlessness of the disease was in stark contrast to the controlled and appreciative way in which Chrzanowski, 57, lived his life.

He devoted 35 years to firefighting, and the last 16 he was a “tremendous asset to the department and the region,” said Carson City Battalion Chief Dan Shirey.

“He was a stickler for detail and making sure that the apparatus and stations were in top condition so that we could respond to emergencies,” he added.

Chrzanowski also was a loving father and grandfather, who had just spent a summer vacation with his family visiting his daughter Sara Luhrs in San Diego while her Marine husband Jaxon was deployed to Iraq.

And with three years left until he retired, said friend and co-worker Capt. Jim Quilici, Chrzanowski finally bought a Harley-Davidson.

“I’d been begging him to buy a Harley for a few years,” said Quilici. “We rode our Harleys down to Laughlin in April. Everything was good.”

June said her husband’s illness swooped in with nary a whisper. One day he had a headache and trouble focusing. And the next he had a death sentence.

“It’s still not real yet,” she said.

Quilici said the day after getting the news, he and Chrzanowski, called Ski by friends, sat down and drank some Jack Daniels together.

“I could tell in his eyes he was angry. I think the main reason he was angry was because here he is in his 35th year of the fire service, close to retirement and he’s not going to be able to enjoy it,” said Quilici. “It just makes me sick.”

Chrzanowski first became a firefighter in Glendale, Ariz., in 1974. He also worked in Flagstaff and Sedona before taking a position in Ukiah, Calif., where he served as deputy fire chief from 1991 to 1993. In 1993, he and June moved with their two daughters and son to Carson City.

“In terms of a fire service professional, he absolutely believed in serving the people of this community, 100 percent,” said Fire Chief Stacey Giomi. “He was certainly one of the people that I learned how to be a good leader from.”

Chrzanowski’s dedication to public service rubbed off on those around him, said June. Not only is his daughter Jessica Chrzanowski a dispatcher with Carson City, his son Andrew is a firefighter with East Fork Fire in Douglas County and his nephew Chris Ahnlund is a hotshot for the Bureau of Land Management. Andrew’s wife Nadine, mother to Chrzanowski’s only grandchild, is a Douglas County deputy.

Family, said June, was his first love. And despite being sick and sleeping most of the time, he found the strength to spend Christmas morning with those he loved the most.

“He was a good man,” she said.

A funeral is tentatively scheduled for Friday. Arrangements still are in the works.

In addition to his wife and children, Chrzanowski is survived by his 1-year-old granddaughter Addison, mother Wanda Chrzanowski and sisters Ronni Ahnlund, Barbara Baxter and Felicia Herriage.