Joseph H. Gross, 99, owner of The Roberts Company mail order catalog and longtime supporter of Industrial Fire World died March 31 having just entered hospice care near his home in Framingham, MA.
Visitors to the Industrial Fire World Expo and other key fire conferences in the 1980s and 1990s could rely on finding the same company in exhibit booth number one – the Roberts Company. The owners, Connie and Joe Gross, were the go-to folks for the entire fire service when it came to badges, patches, T-shirts and other specialty memorabilia.
The custom design for the badges used by many fire departments originated with the Grosses. Their company generated name plates and services pins for thousands of firefighters, fire chiefs and EMS personnel across the country.
Connie and Joe formed a personal bond with many of their customers and fellow exhibitors. For example, the couple all but adopted a young Texas firefighter named David White who had a dream about a magazine dedicated to industrial firefighting. No IFW Expo was complete without Joe and Connie on hand to coach the fledgling conference team. They were happy to share their experience in business and life with anyone pursuing a dream that seemed just beyond reach.
Joe always encouraged questions. In fact, he was hurt if not consulted about any important decision that came along. “You don’t have to have all the right answer,” was Joe’s philosophy. “You only have to ask the right questions.”
After Connie’s death in 2001, Industrial Fire World was honored to award the annual Connie Award in recognition of individuals whose “behind the scenes” efforts made a major impact on emergency response. In 2007, he added the Joe Gross Award, recognizing those whose innovations had most contributed to industrial emergency response.
IFW’s Red Adair award honored the most outstanding achievement in industrial firefighting. The Connie and Joe awards showed that the contributions made off the fire field could be just as important. These awards continued through the last IFW Expo in 2011.
Expressions of sympathy in his memory may be made to the National Fire Heritage Center, P.O. Drawer 76, Emmitsburg, MD 21727. Donations are also accepted through the center’s website at www. https://fireheritageusa.org.
Everybody has favorite stories about Joe. He once told about Connie and him returning from an exhausting business trip. Before they could leave the airport he was struck by a sudden whim for adventure and purchased tickets for the next flight to Alaska.
Imagine Connie’s astonished face as he led her from one plane to another without bothering to stop at home.
Share your favorite tales about Joe and Connie through an e-mail to [email protected].