A ‘cop’s cop’ dies at 89

Seaford’s ‘Big Al’ Klages was a veteran and an NYPD retiree


Alfred Klages, of Seaford, never brought his work home with him when he was a member of the New York City Police Department’s Emergency Service Unit. So it wasn’t until after he died on May 9, at age 89, that his son and daughter learned about their father’s heroic and dangerous assignments.

On a resume that he typed out 40 years ago, Klages noted some of the unusual occurrences he had responded to since joining the Police Department in 1954. He once apprehended a “distraught male who had previously wounded three police officers.” He received a “meritorious” award for the “rescue of five persons in a gas filled dwelling.” He was awarded medals of excellence for arresting many perpetrators of assault, robbery and homicide.

His children also learned after his death that Klages helped bring 13 babies into the world, and occasionally talked suicidal people down from jumping off the Brooklyn Bridge.

To his daughter, Christine Fitzgerald, who grew up in Seaford before moving to Nesconset in 2003, he was just Dad. “He worked a lot,” she recalled, “but he was a good father. He loved to vacation with his family.”

“Big Al,” as close friends called him, was born in Brooklyn on Sept. 6, 1928, to German parents who owned a bakery in Ridgewood, Queens. He served in the U.S. Army as a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division in the years after World War II. He returned to the Army for a second time to serve in the Korean War in 1950 and 1951.

Klages entered the New York City Police Academy in 1954. He and his wife, the former Joan Peters, now 84, married in September 1961 in Woodhaven, Queens, and settled in Seaford. Al joined the Emergency Service Unit in 1968 under then Capt. Ray Kelly, who went on to become the city’s police commissioner.

Fitzgerald said that her family lived near Seaman’s Neck Park, and she has fond memories of her father owning a small Boston Whaler, which he docked at Wantagh Park Marina.

Klages was a staunch advocate of organizations of retired NYPD officers, and regularly attended meetings of the local chapters of the NY 10-13 Association (10-13 is the radio call “cop in danger”); the department’s Retired Emergency Man’s Association; the Nassau County chapter of the New York State Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 69; the Retired Police Association of New York State; Nassau Region 5 of the International Police Association; and the Stueben Association (of German officers).

In Klages’s later years, retired NYPD Officer Timmy Motto, of Bethpage, would drive him back and forth to meetings, because they belonged to many of the same groups.

“He was a cop’s cop,” Motto said. “That’s police jargon for a street cop who looks out for everybody — civilians on the street and other cops.”

Klages retired from the NYPD in 1981, and worked as a driver for the U.S. Postal Service from 1982 to 1992. Other post-retirement jobs included part-time security at Kennedy airport and at World Gym in Wantagh, where he worked out until he was no longer able.

He was also an avid fisherman, a passion he passed along to his now 22-year-old granddaughter, Alana Fitzgerald, when she was young, her mother said. She has photos of him showing Alana and her younger brother, Colin, how to scale and clean fish. Klages was also a hunter, and a founding member of the Maspeth Gun and Rod Hunting Club in Queens.

His dog, Angus, was his buddy. “He was a man’s man, but very sensitive when it came to his grandkids and pets,” Fitzgerald said.

Klages belonged to the Seaford American Legion, and marched with his fellow members in Memorial Day parades. When he was a spectator, he proudly wore his World War II pin on his cap.

Joan Klages still lives in their Seaford home.

Klages died of cancer at St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center in Smithtown, just five weeks after tumors were detected on his spine, his daughter said.

His funeral was held at Fives Smithtown Funeral Home in Smithtown on May 14, and he was buried with full honors at Pinelawn Memorial Park that day. His body was escorted to the cemetery by New York State Troopers; an NYPD Honor Guard was in attendance; and a U.S. Army bugler played taps, his daughter recounted.

Alana Fitzgerald paid tribute to her “Pop-Pop” on social media. “Tonight we lost one of the best men I’ve ever known . . . He taught me how to fish, collect coins, perfect my dive, the responsibly of owning a pet, the art of gift giving/generosity in general, and so much more. . . . I will forever treasure all of our time together and miss you always.”

In addition to his wife, daughter and granddaughter, Klages is survived by a son, Kurt Klages, 49, of Fiskdale, Mass.; a son-in-law, Thomas Fitzgerald, of Nesconset; and grandchildren Kristian Klages, Matthew Klages and Colin Fitzgerald.