NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A remembrance was held Tuesday for William Tolley, an FDNY firefighter who died in the line of duty last week in Queens.
Hundreds waited in long lines in the rain to attend the wake Tuesday. Tolley’s wife and daughter arrived at the funeral home sheltered from the rain by tents, comforted by family and friends.
“Even in this terrible weather we have tremendous outpouring of love for our lost member,” FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said.
Commissioner Nigro acknowledged some of Tolley’s seemingly countless contributions to his community.
“He volunteered with Make-A-Wish, Wounded Warriors,” Nigro said. “He was part of our ceremonial unit. He’d be standing out in the rain at any other funeral, but unfortunately we’re here for him today.”
Tolley, a member of Ladder 135 Engine 286, was killed while responding to a fire at a single unit apartment on Putnam Avenue last week.
The 14-year-old veteran fell to his death when something went wrong as he was standing on the roof of the five-story building.
“They understand the risk they’re taking,” FDNY Chief James Leonard said Tuesday, but understanding the risk doesn’t make the loss of one of New York’s bravest any more bearable — especially for the widow and 8-year-old child left behind.
His wife, Marie Tolley, spoke out publicly for the first time Monday when the Stephen Siller Tunnel 2 Towers Foundation announced it will pay off the mortgage on the family’s home.
Tolley’s daughter Isabella wore her father’s FDNY badge as her mother fought back tears.
“We just want to say thank you from the bottom of our hearts,” Marie Tolley said. “To the firefighters here who worked with Billy and everyone in the fire department that’s been with us every second.”
Tolley’s parents, brother, and sister sat in the front row as Commissioner Nigro promised that they too would always be a part of the fire department’s family.
“We will never say farewell to family, who will always be members of the fire department family,” he said.
Nigro said they are still investigating what caused Tolley to fall.
The painful goodbyes to the fallen firefighter will continue Wednesday, with calling hours at Chapey & Sons Funeral Home from 2-4 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. His funeral is scheduled for 11 a.m. Thursday at St. Martin of Tours on Central Avenue in Bethpage.