MERIDEN — For more than 30 years, Greg Polanski was a full-time member of the city’s Fire Department. More than that, he was known for helping his comrades both while on and off duty in addition to the numerous friends he had made over the years, from lending them a hand to build a barn or letting them stay overnight in his house in the mountains of Vermont.
Polanski, 52, died Tuesday morning after a two-year battle with brain cancer.
“A lot of firefighters are generous with helping out and helping each other whether it’s because they had a fire in their home or their basement is flooded and they’re always there for each other and Greg was that on an exponential level,” said Brendan Noonan, spokesman for the city’s firefighters union.
Noonan said Polanski, a 14-year union president and fire lieutenant, had helped one firefighter, John Gagne, build a barn even with the ongoing cancer. Others he would help out with miscellaneous things around the house, organizing events or volunteering for almost anything. Polanski built his house in Meriden by hand and another in Vermont including the electrical and plumbing work, said longtime friend Kevin Losty.
“He was an extraordinary kind of handyman,” Losty said. “He wouldn’t ever accept a dime for anything. He believed in paying it forward, always.”
From a union standpoint, Noonan said Polanski was always active, vocal and “on the forefront” when it came to workers’ rights and union rights. He was involved in statewide fire union issues and “well known” for it.
Away from work, Polanski was an avid skier with his house near Sugarbush Resort in Vermont. Losty said their families traveled together, skiing in Utah, British Columbia and in Europe.
“It was always a natural, fun place to go,” Losty said of the house in Vermont, where Losty had also built a house of his own. “And if he met you once, you’d be his friend. He loved being around his friends and family”
Despite battling brain cancer, he remained active with the Fire Department and Democratic Town Committee over the last two years. With the DTC, Polanski served as treasurer since the mid-2000s and worked on numerous campaigns from U.S. Senate races down to the local Board of Education, said Chairwoman Mildred Torres-Ferguson.
“Greg has always done so much for the Democratic party in addition to everything else,” Torres-Ferguson said. “It was never ‘no’ with Greg ... Anything you needed, even the little things, he was there.”
Torres-Ferguson recalled her own fight with cancer, which came after Polanski’s initial diagnosis. Despite his condition, he would visit Torres-Ferguson without worrying about himself.
“He never complained about anything,” she said. “He had such a positive attitude even as he was going through it...I’m going to miss having him as a resource, but I’ll miss him so much as a friend.”
Polanski is survived by his wife, Penny, and a son, Jake.
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