Joseph Wrzos (1929-2023)

Joseph Wrzos in 1998 at I-Con 17 Long-Island, NY. Photograph by John L. Coker III

By John L. Coker III: U.S. teacher and editor Joseph [Henry] Wrzos of Saddle River, New Jersey (born in Newark, New Jersey on September 9, 1929) aka Joseph Ross, died on April 7, 2023. 

Yesterday afternoon I received an e-mail message from Ken Wrzos. He wrote: “Hello, John.  I’m sorry to inform you that my dad, Joseph Wrzos, passed away today, April 7, 2023.”

BACKGROUND. Joseph Wrzos received his B.A. (cum laude) in 1952 from Rutgers University, joined Phi Beta Kappa and was a graduate student at Columbia University.  During 1953-54 Joe was Assistant Editor at Gnome Press in New York.  For the next several years he was high school librarian in Roselle Park, NJ. During 1957-95, Joe was an English teacher at Millburn Senior High School, Millburn, NJ, and chairman of the English Department during 1969-72.  He was a member of the National Education Association and the New Jersey Education Association. 


“He was the Managing Editor of Amazing Stories and Fantastic 1965-1967.  He edited The Best of Amazing (anth 1967), selecting only stories from before he became editor; and Hannes Bok: A Life in Illustration (graph coll 2012).  His influence on the field has not been well publicized. He helped Sam Moskowitz with his Robert Duncan Milne collection – Into the Sun and Other Stories: Science Fiction in Old San Francisco, Volume II (coll 1980) – and wrote an article about it in the Winter 1982 Fantasy Commentator.  He helped Peter Ruber with most of his projects at Arkham House but may only be formally co-credited on the Seabury Quinn collection Night Creatures (coll 2003).  He also compiled the August Derleth collection In Lovecraft’s Shadow: The Cthulhu Mythos Stories of August W Derleth (coll 1998) to which he contributed the introduction.  Derleth’s final sf anthology, New Horizons (anth 1998), was put into its final shape by Ross, who again provided the introduction.  He was a consulting editor on the newly revamped (from 2012) Amazing Stories.  In 2009, Joseph Wrzos received the Sam Moskowitz Archive Award from First Fandom and he was elected to the First Fandom Hall of Fame in 2016.”

BY JOHN L. COKER III. There are quite a few members of fandom who knew Joseph Wrzos for more than fifty years, a lot longer than me.  I met Joe Wrzos in 1998 at I-Con 17, Stony Brook University, Long Island, NY.  For the next 25 years, we maintained a written correspondence and worked together on several book projects.  I learned a lot about writing from Professor Wrzos.

I got to know Joe as someone who was cordial, smart, knowledgeable, intelligent and bright, caring, industrious, a person who sought the highest results.  He was a gentleman, a teacher, a mentor, and a friend to many.  He earned and maintained his excellent reputation. 

Joseph Wrzos enjoyed living the life he chose.  For decades, he was in academia, imparting wisdom in his teaching and in his writing.  He embraced the fields of science fiction and fantasy literature.  He was an avid reader and collector, someone who developed genuine expertise in many areas.  He set the highest standards for his personal work and established those same expectations with students and collaborators.  During his long career, he got to work with many big-name fans and pros of the highest caliber, producing a large body of meaningful material for the genre magazines and books.  He seemed happy, finding real love with Helen de la Ree, someone who shared his many interests, and a dear person who worked hard to achieve the very best for both of them.

Joseph Wrzos and Helen de la Ree (I-Con 17, Long Island, NY, 1998). Photograph by John L. Coker III.


He was predeceased by: his former wife Anita Wrzos; and his siblings, Mae Gaborski, Chester Wrzos and Dolly Wiley. He is survived by: his wife Helen; his sons, Michael Ross (Eiko) and Kenneth Wrzos (Michelle Llado-Wrzos); his grandchildren, Philip Ross (Jillian), Nina Ross, Rachel Ross, and Emily Wrzos; and his great grandchild Harlan Ross.

Visitation will be held on Wednesday, April 12th 2023 from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM at the Dancy Memorial (9 Smull Avenue, Caldwell, NJ 07006).  A funeral mass will be held on Thursday, April 13th 2023 at 10:30 AM at the St. Aloysius Church (219 Bloomfield Ave, Caldwell, NJ 07006).  A burial will be held on Thursday, April 13th 2023 at the Prospect Hill Cemetery (326 Bloomfield Avenue, Caldwell, NJ 07006).”

In lieu of flowers, please donate in Joseph’s name to the American Heart Association.

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