Obituary: Danny King / Firefighter who lived for good deeds

Feb. 19, 1956 - June 22, 2014

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Danny King’s fellow firefighters often joked that if he didn’t go to heaven, he would just put out the fires down below.

Mr. King, a Pittsburgh firefighter of 32 years and the brother of city firefighter union president Joey King, died Sunday after sustaining a head injury from falling off a stepladder outside a neighbor‘‍s Brighton Heights home. He was 58.

Born Feb. 19, 1956, to John King Sr. and Florance King of Brighton Heights, Mr. King is remembered for his generosity, humor and daring.

“He was absolutely fearless,” said Brian Matts, a member of Mr. King’‍s crew at fire station four in Mercy Hospital. “There wasn‘‍t one thing that he was afraid of.”

Their colleague belonged to the “old breed,” Mr. King’‍s fellow firefighters said, before the days of smoke masks and heavy equipment.

Mr. King ran onto blazing fire grounds without hesitation, scaling rooftops or standing on the edge of 40-feet buildings if the task required it.

Joey King, who recalled that his brother‘‍s interest in firefighting grew from a conversation at a Steelers game, said Mr. King relished the danger that the role entailed.

“My brother Danny loved to live in the front line of everything,” he said.

But as his daughter Nina Simelis pointed out, “every firefighter has a second job.” In Mr. King‘‍s case, his first calling led to his second one.

In the 1980s, Mr. King partook in a charity campaign called Paint Your Heart Out, in which firefighters traveled through the city and offered free home-painting services to low- and middle-income families. It was his first taste of the joy of painting, which he turned into a business soon afterward.

Mrs. Simelis said she and her three siblings developed their work ethic by helping out with their father’‍s company. Beginning in high school, she said, they worked at King‘‍s Painting, and, like him, learned to be “non-stop.”

When he wasn’‍t working, Mr. King still kept himself busy, often helping relatives and co-workers with home repairs.

“If my dad wanted to prove his love for you, he painted your deck or pulled weeds out of your yard,” Mrs. Simelis said with a laugh.

Once, when a member of his firefighting crew mentioned that he needed to paint his house, Mr. King and his wife climbed into his property through a window and redid the interior walls, without comment or requests for payment.

Mr. King managed these deeds on top of his other hobbies, which included boating and fishing.

Mr. King and his wife of 28 years, Janet King, had met and dated briefly in high school. For years they lived in the same North Side neighborhood, just blocks away from one another.

Nothing had come of their adolescent dalliance, but when they rekindled their romance as adults, Mrs. King said she knew she had found her match.

“There was just something about him — it was like my flame came back,” she said. “He was as goofy as I was.”

Mrs. Simelis described her parents as “the exact same person.” The captain of Mr. King‘‍s firefighting crew, Mike Zurawsky, said the two were inseparable, and both were “the life of the party.”

Despite his youthful vigor, Mr. King was an old soul to the last. He never used a cell phone and was devoted to “the old school of firefighting,” without heavy equipment or bureaucracy.

In addition to his wife and daughter, he is survived by children Daniel King Jr. and Chad King, both of Brighton Heights, and Kelsey King of Philadelphia; his siblings Pete, Joe, Matt, David and Tim King, Patty Castagna and Tootie Kirby of Brighton Heights, Sandy King of New Kensington and Jim King of Imperial; and his four grandchildren.

There will be visitations on Thursday and Friday, from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m at O’‍Brien‘‍s Funeral Home on 3724 California Ave. in Brighton Heights.

Mass will take place 10 a.m. Saturday in Risen Lord Parish at 3250 California Ave.

In lieu of flowers, the family has requested a donation to the Pittsburgh Fire Fighter Local #1 “Coats for Kids” program.


Yanan Wang: ywang@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1949 or on Twitter @yananw.


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