Filipowicz funeral: Heartbreaking farewell to father and son who died in Superstorm Sandy
Family and friends say heartbreaking farewell to father and son who died holding each other when Sandy’s water poured into their home
- Father and son were under 12 feet of water within seconds of Sandy’s attack
- Son refused to leave his father’s side despite warning to evacuate
- Deaths on Staten Island now up to 19 after the superstorm
- Dad’s brother was a 9/11 firefighter but said ‘nothing compares’ to this family loss
A tragic father and son who died side by side when the raging floods of Superstorm Sandy rushed into their home were buried together Monday in an emotional funeral.
John Filipowicz, of Staten Island, and his son — also called John — were clinging to each other in their basement while shielding themselves from a deluge that covered them with 12 feet of water in seconds.
John Jr, 20, was found drowned in his father’s arms after telling relatives he would not leave his father.
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Heartbreak: Christine Filipowicz, pictured at center, is comforted by her children Cali, 16, left, and Joseph, right, as they stand in front of her husband and son’s coffins
Salute: A Navy veteran stands at attention as the caskets of John K. Filipowicz and his 20-year-old son, John C. Filipowicz, are carried from St Charles Church on Staten Island
Solemn: Mourners embrace as a family member waits in a limousine to drive to the cemetery after the funeral
On Monday, a service was held for the father and son at St Charles Church on Staten Island.
It was attended by dozens of mourners, including John Sr’s wife Christine and their surviving children Joseph – John Jr’s twin brother – and 16-year-old Cali.
DNAInfo reported that the two men were huge fans of the New York Jets and were buried in the jerseys of their favorite players – Joe Klecko for John Sr and Dustin Keller for John Jr.
Relatives said the two had an “incredible bond” and would never have been separated – in life or in death.
Blessing: A priest baptizes holy water on the coffins after the funeral service
Final resting place: Christine Filipowicz watches as US Marines salute her husband’s coffin during funeral services
John Sr, 51, stayed behind to watch over the house, but his son refused to leave his side.
Among the mourners were John Sr’s wife Christine, and his two surviving children, Joseph, John Jr’s twin brother and 16-year-old Cali.
The deaths were among 19 fatalities on Staten Island from Superstorm Sandy, more than any other New York borough. The total death toll in the US currently stands at 110.
Tragedy: Mourners embrace after the funeral of those men who drowned together in the storm surge caused by Superstorm Sandy
Brother and Uncle Neil Filipowicz standing in front of the Staten Island house
Neil Filipowicz said the watermark was at least three meters high
Other victims included Connor and Brandon Moore, ages four and two, who were swept from their mother’s arms by a giant wave on the east coast of Staten Island.
The Filipowicz family lived on Fox Beach Avenue, one of the hardest hit streets on the island.
Neil Filipowicz, 46, John Sr’s brother, told MailOnline that his brother had decided to ignore evacuation warnings after last year’s Hurricane Irene and a 1992 storm.
He said, “I spoke to Joseph and he said that that day he tried to persuade him to leave. He was on the phone and told John [Jr] leave the house. He said to him, “I’m not leaving daddy.”
‘He was my rock’: Christine Filipowicz hugs a friend outside her house
“There was no question of him leaving his father at home. It was a bond as it should be with your children, between a son and a father. They loved each other so much. They had an incredible bond.’
Neil, a retired New York City firefighter who served on 9/11, said the family was concerned when they couldn’t reach their father or son during Monday night’s storm.
Neil went to their house at 7:30 the next day, looked around the house and saw that his brother’s keys and wallet were on the table, but there was no trace of them.
John jr in the picture with a friend
Neil, Christine and other family members then went around local hostels and when they found nothing, Neil went back to the house alone.
Neil said, “I crawled through a hole in the wall the water had made. I shone my flashlight from right to left and then I saw a hand to my left.
“I prayed it was a doll’s hand, but I reached into the water and grabbed it and my cousin came up.
“My brother came forward too, he had his arm around the back of his head and was protecting him.
“I pulled them both on their shirts at the same time and a neighbor came to help me take them off and we put them on the side of the house until they were moved by the National Guard and the coroner.
“My cousin held my brother and my brother pressed him to his chest as if they knew they were dying.
‘My brother protected him. Their eyes were open. My brother looked intense, as if he was still trying to fight the end and be the father and protect his son. My cousin was so scared.
“The waterline on this one was ten feet high, but I think it must have been much higher.”
Neil said the two men were in the basement checking things out.’
Family tragedy: John Filipowicz Sr. and his son, John Filipowicz Jr. (right) were found buried under rubble in the basement of their home
Tribute left outside the Staten Island, New York home of John K Filipowicz and son John C Filipowicz who drowned in the basement during a flood caused by Superstorm Sandy.
The basement of the house where father and son drowned when the storm hit
He added: ‘I know my brother had some sandbags outside, he had used some expandable foam on the back door. No water came through.
“All the foam had to come out, probably he was checking it and maybe he heard a crack in the structure, but then it broke, the rush of the water, that pressure.
“Some cinder blocks are on the other side of the basement. To be pushed like that, they fired like… [a] cannon.’
John Jr: Relatives said father and son had a special bond
Neil fought back tears, saying that he had served as a firefighter in New York City on Sept. 11, but that “nothing compares to this for its proximity.”
Neighbors knew Jan the Elder as the ‘mayor’ of the street because he took care of them by helping to clear the street in winter.
In turn, they called him the family name ‘Flip’. In tribute to his brother, Neil said, “My brother was all about family. Even our friends were considered family, it was like an extended family.
“He was a United States Marine of high school. He served in Greneda and then worked in the New York City Corrections Department and from there he retired and worked for the Concrete Laborers Union for a while.
‘He was a great family man, he loved his wife and children very much. In recent years he drove a bus for school children.
“He was a football coach, a basketball coach. He was also a school baseball coach and was a churchgoer, he was a regular at St. Charles Catholic Church.”
Neil described John Jr. like a ‘prince’ who did ‘everything for everyone’.
He said, ‘He was the heir of who his father was. He did everything right. He was never in trouble, he did everything right. He was devoted to his girlfriend. He went to university and took the fire service exam, he tried to improve himself and he thought about becoming a nurse.’
Son John (left) refused to leave his father’s side
John Filipowicz Jr (back, right) pictured here two years ago with family members
Twin brothers: Joseph (right) urged John to leave the house, but John jr replied, ‘I’m not leaving daddy’