Stanley: Couple share life, job through Joliet police force
By Brian Stanley Life of Brianfirstname.lastname@example.org May 4, 2013 5:52PM
Joliet Police Sgt. Tom Grutzius congratulates his wife, Christina, after she was recently named Telecommunicator of The Year for her emergency dispatches. | Photo Courtesy Joliet Police Department
Updated: June 6, 2013 7:10AM
From reading the want ads 18 years ago, Christina Grutzius found her calling, her family and some recent recognition.
Joliet needed emergency dispatchers and Christina needed a job, but her trainer, Julie Ponce-Doyle, warned her half the new hires wash out right away.
Christina could handle it.
Though she’s had some horrible calls as a telecommunicator she prefers not to recall, she’s never bored.
“Every day is something different,” she said. “If you’re calling 911, you need help, and I like knowing that what I do helps people.”
Sgt. Tom Grutzius (everyone see where this is going?) started at the department about the same time and the pair hit it off after a work party one night.
“Best birthday present ever,” Christina said of her husband.
The Grutziuses have raised three children, and Tom credits his wife’s flexibility in switching shifts through his different assignments with keeping the house running and getting everyone to their activities, which includes Girl Scout meetings and flute lessons with her daughters.
“I wanted to show solidarity, so I’m learning too,” she said. “I’m right about at ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb’ level.”
But the couple also have worked the same shifts and Christina has sent her husband to respond to things she wishes she didn’t have to.
“I can’t (count) how many times I’ve sent him to see dead bodies,” she said with a sigh.
But the couple, who were interviewed separately, both said they’re lucky to have someone who understands what their jobs entail.
Two weeks ago, Christina was in a class on suicidal calls when Ponce-Doyle, who is now the comm center director, walked in with flowers and balloons. Christina was surprised to learn she had been chosen as the city’s Telecommunicator of the Year.
“It really did lighten the mood of the class,” Christina admitted.
She didn’t think anything about her work over the last year has deserved special consideration, but Ponce-Doyle said Christina’s peers wanted to recognize her overall performance.
Looking over the various commendations she’s received in her career, her husband agreed with her peers completely. Tom remembers many years ago when Christina was training someone and a call came in that seemed to be accidental.
“There was just someone in the background yelling for their keys and a beeping sound. It would’ve just been a well-being check, but she figured out they were yelling for their kids and a smoke alarm was going off,” Grutzius said. “She sent the ambulance right away to a house fire and they found the kids hiding in bedrooms. She connected the dots and saved lives.”
Christina also has instructed a Spanish-speaking mother to perform CPR on an unresponsive infant and got her breathing again before the ambulance arrived. Three years ago she received another commendation for contacting police in Arizona with information after a local caller said her friend was despondent. Police there arrived in time to stop a suicide attempt.
Tom Grutzius was happy Christina’s award gave him a public opportunity to show how proud he is of his wife.
“And she means the world to me,” he said.