FDNY Firefighter Who Died of 9/11-Linked Brain Tumor Remembered as Amiable Soul 'Loved by Many'

NY Daily News - October 29, 2017

by ESHA RAY, LARRY MCSHANE

Statement on the Passing of Firefighter Robert M. Tilearcio

Firefighter Robert Tilearcio, the latest FDNY victim of 9/11, spent much of his too-short lifetime turning strangers into friends.

The 58-year-old Tilearcio was remembered at his Saturday funeral as a genial soul who fought aggressively to pass the Zadroga Act, protecting all poisoned by their heroic work at Ground Zero.

“Bobby was loved by many,” said his Engine 266 colleague LeRoy McGinnis in a moving eulogy. “The wealth of a man’s life should not be judged from what he owns, but by the lives he touched and the friendships he made.

“Skippy made a lot of friends,” he continued, using Tilearcio’s nickname. “I’m one of them. We miss him. We love him.”

The mourners gathered for a funeral Mass at St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church in Massapequa, where Tilearcio’s casket sat near the altar beneath a red cloth. A photo of the late firefighter stood to its side.

There was laughter amid the tears as McGinnis recalled some of his old friend’s non-firefighting talents.

“He also did comedy,” said McGinnis. “I heard he sometimes refused to get off the stage. Good for him.”

A procession of firetrucks, along with FDNY bagpipes and drums, accompanied Tilearcio’s casket to the suburban church.

He was killed by a brain tumor, the results of his exposure to the World Trade Center toxins after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

His wife and two children linked arms and silently sobbed as the casket came out of the church after the service.

McGinnis made mention of Tilearcio’s half-dozen trips to Washington, D.C., to ensure that first responders sickened while working at Ground Zero had their health care costs covered.

“Skip got up early, got on the bus and took it all the way to Washington, D.C.,” said McGinnis. “He did this many times ... He never gave up.”

Tilearcio died this past Wednesday, 34 years to the day after first meeting his future wife Tina. He became the 15th FDNY member to die this year of a 9/11-related ailment.