Jesse Gardner

Visual Artist best known for creating Unsung Heroes portrait series featuring FDNY firefighters in the mid 1990's. Represented by FAN Gallery in Philadelphia. Married with two great children, lives and works in Philadelphia, PA.

Apr 122012 (This link takes you to the Firefighter Portrait Page for a background on the series).



This Sunday, from 3-6 PM, our firefighter portrait gallery at 2012-24 East Arizona Street will be open to honor Lt. Robert P. Neary, 60, and Firefighter Daniel Sweeney, 25 both assigned to Ladder 10 at Kensington and Castor Avenues. Beverages and light refreshments will be served.

At 6:00 PM the Gallery will close so all can attend:   


WHERE:  Site of the fire, Between York and Boston Street by Jasper

WHEN:    SUNDAY, APRIL 15th, 2012  6PM

Following the vigil, the gallery will re-open and remain open until 10pm.

Lt. Kreuscher, FDNY with (l-r) PFD Rescue 1 firefighter David Herron and Lt. Shawn Glynn Sr.

On display are a number of large scale oil portraits of FDNY firefighters and officers, including Lt. Dennis Mojica who perished on 9/11 in the service of his country. The gallery is located at 2012-24 East Arizona Street between Coral and Emerald, just two blocks from the tragic fire scene where the two firefighters lost their lives fighting the massive Thomas Buck Hosiery Building Fire on Monday, April 9th.  Losing these men is a reminder to us all that these dedicated public servants have a dangerous job, and put their lives at risk every day to protect our community. We honor them for their commitment and sacrifice, and stand with their families and their fellow firefighters at this difficult time.

Nov 072011

Sign-in table at the Gallery. Lt. Kreuscher took down and folded our flag, which was damaged in the wind. We will always treasure this flag and keep it folded as a symbol of the respect that this former military man and fire commander holds for his country.


Our little Loading Dock Gallery at 2012-24 East Arizona Street in Philadelphia was the  venue for an exciting book signing event  for retired FDNY Lt. George R. Kreuscher on October 15th. It was a memorable afternoon, with the guests of honor the firefighters of Rescue 1 Philadelphia, who arrived in their specialized Rescue Apparatus.

Rescue 1 Apparatus parked across from the Gallery

Lt. Kreuscher with (l-r) Rescue 1 firefighter David Herron and Lt. Shawn Glynn Sr.

Some of these firefighters know Kresucher, having had him as an instructor at “The Rock,” the FDNY training facility on Randall’s Island.

My daughter Alana listens to the reading. Portrait of Kreuscher's firefighter son George in the background.

Lt. Kreuscher read the opening chapter from his memoir “Fireman,” which relives the events of 9/11 from the perspective of someone who has responded to thousands of alarms in his 31 year career and knows the routine of the doomed firefighters making their way up the smoky stairwells of the Twin Towers while civilians pass them on the way down. Hearing his routine listing of every minute detail of command structure, readiness, and gear, was profoundly moving. Firefighters are people who notice things, whose job it is  to be vigilant and watchful, who have real skills. There were tears shed among the assembled gallery-goers as he read through the passage describing the firefighter’s ascent through the stairwells, and George choked up at several points.

Neighbors, friends and family listen to the reading. George's son, former FDNY firefighter George Kreuscher is second from left. Kreusher family members, including Lt. Kreuscher's wife Mary stand at far right.Kreuscher's son, a retired FDNY firefighter also named George Kreuscher, sang "Danny Boy" in a beautiful tenor, a first for these events. This is a song often performed at firefighter funerals. When I finally figure out how to compress the file, I'll upload the video.The author reading, with portraits of three Rescue 1 firefighters in background.

It was fitting to hear this song performed on a day when the visiting Rescue 1 firefighters laid to rest one of their own, Lt. Richard M. Benditt. He was one of 18 Philadelphia FEMA firefighters who worked at Ground Zero in the aftermath of the attacks. The obituary linked below discusses how prevalent cancer is among this group who worked long hours with minimal protective gear in the toxic stew at the World Trade Center site, and slept in their gear on cots at the Convention Center. This is the untold story of 9/11 and not enough is being done to help those who are ill and who have already died before their time. I hope you will take time to read about his life and write some words of condolence for his family.

Kreuscher signs book for school teacher Amy Nicole Heintz (from a New York firefighter family), Kreuscher's 1993 portrait in the background.

Author Kreuscher sold 10 books, which is quite successful considering our tiny venue and zero coverage in the media (yes, we sent out press releases to all media outlets). After 20 years of organizing these events, I have come to realize that stories of the stoic men and women who protect our communities  will never be as newsworthy as Kim Kardashian’s derriere or Justin Bieber’s haircut. One reception and book signing at a time, my goal has been and will continue to be, to illuminate this  unique  narrative of true American selflessness and personal sacrifice. Thanks to all who attended, and I look forward to seeing you at our next event.

Firefighter Edward Brown of Rescue and I discuss the portrait of Firefighter Sheldon Wright. Just like Firefighter Wright, firefighter Brown seems larger than life in person, and projects an alertness and decency that is the hallmark of a good firefighter and civic role model.

Oct 072011

I just received this letter from former FDNY Lieutenant Charlie Hubbard, a friend of mine who worked with Lt. George Kreuscher, the subject of my previous blog. I hadn’t realized they worked together years ago. Charlie was set to retire from the FDNY on September 10, 2001 and was headed to Hawaii on 9/11. His plane lifted off moments before the first plane hit the towers. When Charlie got back to Manhattan three days later, his plane having been grounded in Ohio, he resumed command of his firehouse, where his successor and most of his comrades had been killed. You can read about this in Charlie’s blog, which is linked at the end of his letter, re-posted here. Charlie is now a yoga teacher, and just arrived in Singapore to continue his work.

Firefighter's Multimedia Tribute

Hi Jesse,

 I am settled in Singapore and very happy to be back here. I am quite relaxed here. There is something about this city that agrees with me.

 When I read the name “George Kreuscher” a lot of memories came up.  Before I was a Lieutenant, I was a firefighter in Ladder 4. Rescue 1 was in our Battalion. So I would get detailed to Rescue occasionally. I remember working with George on the “back step” of Rescue. He told me a story I never forgot.

 I was a young firemen, George was a pretty senior guy at Rescue. George was talking casually at one point during the tour and mentioned how he made sure he always kissed his wife goodbye when he left because there was no certainty of his coming home. 

 When you were describing his writing as being without drama, I remembered that conversation.  What he said, although deeply poignant, was said without drama or angst.  It was just a fact of his life that he accepted.  I never forgot it.

 I never thought much about being injured or killed. When I was accepted for the job, I spent three days considering the danger. I decided it was a calculated risk worth taking, made a promise to be careful and never much thought about it again. I used to feel bad for fearful firefighters. I often thought they would have been better off doing something else.  George’s [approach to life] was another thing I had not considered.  He was totally cognizant of the danger, but was unafraid anyway, He accepted it. There is a level of depth to that consciousness I admire.

 I just finished a blog post; you may be interested in it.

Sep 262011

George Kreuscher is one of the first firefighters that I painted in the early ’90′s. We have kept in touch through the years, more so in the post 9/11 era.  I am pleased to announce that our gallery is hosting a book signing for George on October 15th between the hours of 2 and 6. He will be there to sign books and talk about his experiences in the FDNY. The firefighter portraits will be on display, including the double life size portrait featured on the cover of George’s memoir, “Fireman.”  You can link to a website to purchase his book here: and books will be available at the gallery for the signing event. The gallery is located at 2012-24 East Arizona Street in East Kensington, Philadelphia 19125.

Book Cover featuring my portrait of Kreuscher

George spent 31 years on the front lines of the FDNY, many of them in Rescue 1, which was decimated in the collapse of the Twin Towers on 9/11.

I don’t have much time to read these days, but I read this book cover to cover. George has a way of stating things simply, without irony or sentiment that grips you from the opening chapter and doesn’t let go til the end.

George has a son on the “job” and another retired from the Fire Service (George Jr., whose portrait is in the exhibit. Read about the portrait here:

Firefighter Kreuscher

Sep 222011
Audrey Wynne Gardner plays with a Vintage Fire Truck

On September 11, 2011 Arizona Street Arts opened “Unsung Heroes,” an exhibition of large scale portraits of FDNY firefighters at the Loading Dock Gallery, 2024 East Arizona Street. This is the first showing in 10 years of the larger than life firefighter portraits and the inaugural exhibition for this industrial gallery space (it used to be an actual loading dock for the building). Events included a reception for the artist, and a candle-lit singing of Amazing Grace as evening descended on Kensington. It was a day set aside to honor our First Responders who died on 9/11, and to celebrate the vision of Artist Jesse Gardner, who recognized the unique qualities of the American firefighter 21 years ago, when he first put brush to canvas for this portrait series.

Fire Service Paramedic Beth Glynn & Lt. Shawn Glynn Sr. with the Artist

It was an emotional reception, with local residents and longtime followers of the portrait series in awe of the scale and power of the artwork. On a day when most First Responders were attending Civic events, it was a highlight of the afternoon when Lt. Shawn Glynn of Rescue 1visited with his wife, Fire Service Paramedic Beth Glynn.

David Gleeson of Crane Arts with the Artist

Artist Patita Shaday with Joe Fenton

The three portraits in this image are all of Rescue 1 firefighters

Miranda, with Sheila Modglin of Sunshine Arts

Mary Tracy (of SRUB & Scenic America), Alana Chen Gardner, and the Artist. Alana was 6 months old when the Twin Towers fell.

David D'Imperio (Right) took the Mojica portrait to Mojica's funeral in NYC on September 22, 2001, assisted by David Gleeson and the Artist

Miranda, and Amy Nicole Hientz (Amy is a public school teacher and from a NY firefighter family)

Audrey Wynne Gardner plays with a vintage fire truck

Fraidoon Al-Nakib (F.A.N. Gallery), Mary Tracy (SCRUB), and the Artist

Father and Daughter in front of Berkman portrait

The Loading Dock Gallery

Scott Winger with Fraidoon Al Nakib, of F.A.N. Gallery

Gallery Tour