Sean McCarthy, FDNY Firefighter, Dies at 35

Newsday - May 30, 2008


Sean Michael McCarthy, one of five brothers who followed their father into the New York City Fire Department, died Tuesday of complications related to cancer. He was 35 years old and a lifelong resident of Bellmore.

One of McCarthy's 11 siblings, FDNY Lt. James McCarthy, remembered his brother yesterday as a natural teacher in his passions: cooking and fishing.

"He loved to be in the kitchen and be able to provide a great meal for his fellow firefighters," he said. "He didn't ask for a lot, but he gave a lot."

McCarthy and two of his brothers, also FDNY members, were among those who responded to the 9/11 attacks. One of his brothers said McCarthy developed asthma and an enlarged gland after working at the site on and off for several weeks.

McCarthy graduated from Holy Trinity Diocesan High School in Hicksville in 1990 and attended Farmingdale State College. He joined the FDNY in 1996, where he was initially assigned to Engine Co. 221 in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. In 2001, he was transferred to Engine Co. 280 in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, where he remained for the rest of his career.

The job was a natural fit for McCarthy, who became a junior member of the Bellmore Fire Department when he was 14 years old and a full member at 18, friends and family said.

McCarthy's father, Lt. James McCarthy, a career city firefighter, was decorated for his role in a daring rescue at a burning YMCA building in Manhattan in 1972, and four of Sean's brothers eventually joined the department.

It was just one of two or three instances in the department's history that so many brothers served at the same time, said FDNY spokesman Jim Long.

"The department's thoughts and prayers are with Sean's family," Long said. "This is a great loss to them and the department."

The senior James McCarthy died from leukemia in 1997.

Throughout his life, McCarthy plied the waters around Long Island in search of good fishing spots, most recently in his 29-foot boat, Beast of Burden, his family said. McCarthy was often joined by some of his many nieces and nephews and his wife, Stacey, whom he met through mutual friends and married in 2004.

McCarthy's sister, Gerri Doherty, described him as a confident man with a sharp sense of humor. "When he gave you a jab, you knew he liked you," said Doherty, a Suffolk school district administrator who lives in Jamesport. "He was a bit of a buster, but a good buster."

McCarthy was diagnosed early last year with a malignant tumor on his spine but remained upbeat through treatment. "We got our strength from being around him. He was a fighter," Doherty said.

Chief Cornelius Maguire of the Bellmore Fire Department said as a cook, organizer and firefighter, McCarthy was an integral part of the Bellmore community. "He was a doer. He didn't stand around and watch other people do stuff," Maguire said.

McCarthy is survived by his wife; mother Mary McCarthy; five brothers; six sisters; and 21 nieces and nephews.

The funeral is to be held tomorrow at 10 a.m. at St. Barnabas The Apostle Church on Bedford Avenue in Bellmore. An interment will follow at St. Charles Cemetery in East Farmingdale.