Joseph Peoples, 23-year veteran of the NYPD



October 3, 2004

A man of few words, Joseph Peoples' personality came through in his work. The quiet loyalty and caring he put into his job as a NYPD Emergency Services Officer were some of his strongest traits, family members said, and they carried over into life at home, where he was a dedicated husband and father.

The 23-year veteran of the force died at his Massapequa Park home Sept. 18 of prostate cancer. He was 72.

Peoples was born on Manhattan's Lower East Side, where he was raised by a single mom who was widowed when Peoples was young. After graduating from high school, Peoples served with the 461st Infantry Battalion, 8th Army in Korea during the Korean War, where he was placed in the heavy infantry division as part of a mortar squad. While serving, Peoples encountered several close calls, such as the time his group came under fire from the enemy and a fellow soldier and friend from New York advised Peoples to jump into a foxhole with him. Peoples decided not to go into the hole, and as a result his life was spared - The foxhole was bombed just moments later, killing his friend, said his grandson, Christopher Hetherington Jr.

After the war, Peoples took a job with Borden's dairy in Queens. He began working as a truck driver, but then took a promotion in management. It wasn't long, however, before Peoples began to hear the call of the open road again.

"He decided the inside thing wasn't for him," said his son-in-law, Christopher Hetherington of Little Neck. "He wanted to get back on the road."

In 1959, Peoples left Borden and joined the New York Police Department, where he was assigned to the 23rd Precinct in Spanish Harlem. He spent several years as a patrolman before he joined the Emergency Services Unit. After a decade or so with that division, he received his Detective Specialist shield, something Hetherington said was rare back then.

While with ESU, Peoples worked a number of high-profile cases, Hetherington said, including, the real-life 1972 Brooklyn bank siege that inspired the movie "Dog Day Afternoon." But being a part of the elite unit wasn't all about guns and criminals. Sometimes it involved much simpler things, such as the time he helped a child who had gotten his hand wedged into a gum-ball machine.

Peoples retired from the NYPD in 1982 but continued to work, doing security for a variety of places, including Belmont Park. He spent about 15 years working for Brunswick Hospital Center in Amityville, eventually becoming a supervisor.

Peoples enjoyed working there, his son-in-law said, because he often would have to perform duties similar to when he was with the NYPD, such as chasing down patients who had escaped the hospital. "It was like being a cop again," Hetherington said. "He never really got it out of his blood."

Peoples married the former Louise Cuozzi, another Lower East Side resident, in 1954. The couple lived first in South Ozone Park before moving to Massapequa Park in 1972. She died in 1996.

Peoples was described as a man of integrity who was fair and honest with those around him.

In his spare time he liked to travel, getting behind the wheel of his vehicle and driving around the United States. One of his favorite jaunts was a trip to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the theme park Dollywood in Tennessee.

The former officer also kept a vegetable garden, Hetherington said, and would spend time tending to his tomatoes, beans and zucchini. In addition, he was an active member of the Retired Emergency Man's Association.

Peoples is survived by his son Joseph of Fort Lee, N.J., daughters Kathy Hetherington of Little Neck, Linda and Diane of Massapequa Park; and three grandchildren.

A service was held at Massapequa Funeral Home, and Peoples was buried at St. Charles Cemetery in East Farmingdale.