Funeral services for Joseph Zadroga took place at Queen of Peace...

Funeral services for Joseph Zadroga took place at Queen of Peace Church in North Arlington, New Jersey on Tuesday. Credit: Ed Quinn

ARLINGTON, N.J. — Joseph Zadroga, who lost his son, an NYPD detective, from illness contracted at Ground Zero, and spent the ensuing years getting health benefits for thousands of others sickened at the pile, was remembered Tuesday at his funeral as a “reluctant hero.”

Zadroga, 76, of Little Egg Harbor, New Jersey, was struck and killed earlier this month in a hospital parking lot where he had been visiting his ailing wife.

More than 150 friends, family, colleagues and a contingent of law enforcement and first responders from across the region attended the 90-minute service Tuesday at Queen of Peace Church in North Arlington, New Jersey.

Monsignor William Fadrowski said Zadroga became a “reluctant hero” after the death of his son James in 2006. The NYPD detective fell ill after spending some 500 hours at Ground Zero assisting in the search and recovery efforts.

“Joe did what he had to do because he knew it was the right thing to do, even at times of great frustration,” said Fadrowski, the former chaplain of the North Arlington Police Department.

“Joe lived his life with class and grace,” the monsignor added. “If we’re looking for a hero, we don’t have to look too far. He’s here among us.”

A motorcade of dozens of police vehicles from New York and New Jersey escorted Zadroga's funeral procession to the front of the church before the funeral. An NYPD honor guard carried the coffin, draped in an American flag, into the Roman Catholic Church, while a lone bagpiper played “Taps.”

Zadroga was an Army veteran who served in Vietnam from 1966 to 1968 and later in the North Arlington Police Department for 27 years, retiring as chief in 1997.

The death of his son was the first to be linked to work at Ground Zero after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

He was instrumental in advocating for the passage of legislation, created in his son's name, which provides federal health care benefits, monitoring and treatment for those exposed to the airborne contaminants in lower Manhattan in the days and weeks after the attacks.

The $4.3 billion James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act was initially approved by Congress in 2010 and permanently renewed in 2015 with another $8.1 million in funding. 

“Our law enforcement are called to protect and serve,” Fadrowski said. “And that was certainly something Joe did above and beyond the call of duty; something that he did way beyond a job. It was a passion. A commitment. The James Zadroga bill was passed by the Congress largely because of his dogged determination to serve and to help those in need.”

Former Rep. Carolyn Maloney, a Queens Democrat who was among the lead sponsors of the legislation, attended Tuesday's funeral.

Joseph Zadroga died on Jan. 13 after being struck in the parking lot of a Galloway Township, New Jersey hospital by an SUV after he had gone to retrieve Christmas presents from his 2015 Hyundai Tucson.

As the 82-year-old driver of the 2021 Nissan “was pulling into his parking space,” a police statement said, “he accelerated, struck the Hyundai, and then struck Zadroga, who was subsequently pinned underneath the Nissan.”

Zadroga was eventually pulled from beneath the SUV and taken to the hospital's emergency room, where he was pronounced dead, police said. There have been no arrests announced in the case.

His other son, Joseph, 56, said Jan. 14 would have been his parents' 57th wedding anniversary. His mother, Linda, who attended the funeral on a hospital gurney after being loaded off an ambulance, has been hospitalized with circulatory problems and the family had been unable to celebrate a traditional Christmas, the younger Zadroga previously told Newsday.

Joseph Zadroga Jr. said before his father was hit, the two had gone down to the hospital's parking lot to retrieve the Christmas gifts for an impromptu holiday celebration at his mother's bedside.

“She was expecting [Zadroga Sr.] to come back up,” he said. “I came up instead.”

Zadroga Jr. told his mother what had happened.

“She was in disbelief,” said Zadroga Jr., who witnessed his father getting hit.

James Zadroga's 2006 death came roughly a year after his wife, Rhonda, died of a heart attack, leaving his parents to help raise their then-4-year-old daughter Tyler Ann.

On Tuesday, Tyler Ann Zadroga, holding back tears, described her grandfather as a thoughtful and generous man who would help her with homework, prepared her for college and accompanied her to concerts.

“He loved his family more than anyone,” she said. “He was not just my grandfather. He was my best friend. He was my whole world.”

ARLINGTON, N.J. — Joseph Zadroga, who lost his son, an NYPD detective, from illness contracted at Ground Zero, and spent the ensuing years getting health benefits for thousands of others sickened at the pile, was remembered Tuesday at his funeral as a “reluctant hero.”

Zadroga, 76, of Little Egg Harbor, New Jersey, was struck and killed earlier this month in a hospital parking lot where he had been visiting his ailing wife.

More than 150 friends, family, colleagues and a contingent of law enforcement and first responders from across the region attended the 90-minute service Tuesday at Queen of Peace Church in North Arlington, New Jersey.

A reluctant hero

Monsignor William Fadrowski said Zadroga became a “reluctant hero” after the death of his son James in 2006. The NYPD detective fell ill after spending some 500 hours at Ground Zero assisting in the search and recovery efforts.

“Joe did what he had to do because he knew it was the right thing to do, even at times of great frustration,” said Fadrowski, the former chaplain of the North Arlington Police Department.

“Joe lived his life with class and grace,” the monsignor added. “If we’re looking for a hero, we don’t have to look too far. He’s here among us.”

A motorcade of dozens of police vehicles from New York and New Jersey escorted Zadroga's funeral procession to the front of the church before the funeral. An NYPD honor guard carried the coffin, draped in an American flag, into the Roman Catholic Church, while a lone bagpiper played “Taps.”

'Beyond the call of duty'

Zadroga was an Army veteran who served in Vietnam from 1966 to 1968 and later in the North Arlington Police Department for 27 years, retiring as chief in 1997.

The death of his son was the first to be linked to work at Ground Zero after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

He was instrumental in advocating for the passage of legislation, created in his son's name, which provides federal health care benefits, monitoring and treatment for those exposed to the airborne contaminants in lower Manhattan in the days and weeks after the attacks.

The $4.3 billion James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act was initially approved by Congress in 2010 and permanently renewed in 2015 with another $8.1 million in funding. 

“Our law enforcement are called to protect and serve,” Fadrowski said. “And that was certainly something Joe did above and beyond the call of duty; something that he did way beyond a job. It was a passion. A commitment. The James Zadroga bill was passed by the Congress largely because of his dogged determination to serve and to help those in need.”

Former Rep. Carolyn Maloney, a Queens Democrat who was among the lead sponsors of the legislation, attended Tuesday's funeral.

Celebration cut short

Joseph Zadroga died on Jan. 13 after being struck in the parking lot of a Galloway Township, New Jersey hospital by an SUV after he had gone to retrieve Christmas presents from his 2015 Hyundai Tucson.

As the 82-year-old driver of the 2021 Nissan “was pulling into his parking space,” a police statement said, “he accelerated, struck the Hyundai, and then struck Zadroga, who was subsequently pinned underneath the Nissan.”

Zadroga was eventually pulled from beneath the SUV and taken to the hospital's emergency room, where he was pronounced dead, police said. There have been no arrests announced in the case.

His other son, Joseph, 56, said Jan. 14 would have been his parents' 57th wedding anniversary. His mother, Linda, who attended the funeral on a hospital gurney after being loaded off an ambulance, has been hospitalized with circulatory problems and the family had been unable to celebrate a traditional Christmas, the younger Zadroga previously told Newsday.

Joseph Zadroga Jr. said before his father was hit, the two had gone down to the hospital's parking lot to retrieve the Christmas gifts for an impromptu holiday celebration at his mother's bedside.

“She was expecting [Zadroga Sr.] to come back up,” he said. “I came up instead.”

Zadroga Jr. told his mother what had happened.

“She was in disbelief,” said Zadroga Jr., who witnessed his father getting hit.

James Zadroga's 2006 death came roughly a year after his wife, Rhonda, died of a heart attack, leaving his parents to help raise their then-4-year-old daughter Tyler Ann.

On Tuesday, Tyler Ann Zadroga, holding back tears, described her grandfather as a thoughtful and generous man who would help her with homework, prepared her for college and accompanied her to concerts.

“He loved his family more than anyone,” she said. “He was not just my grandfather. He was my best friend. He was my whole world.”

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