Remembering Tolley

Queens Gazette - October 03, 2018

by Joyce Vetere Milowski and Dan Miller

Traffic in Ridgewood was difficult to maneuver near Engine 286/Ladder 135 on Myrtle Avenue on September 26 as the NYPD and FDNY had closed off some of the streets around the firehouse where hero fire fighter William Tolley called his second home for more than a decade.

The City of New York honored a fallen hero of the FDNY who lost his life last April battling a fire in Queens. William Tolley was 42 when he fell to his death from a ladder from his truck as he was attempting to reach the roof of a blaze at 1615 Putnam Avenue, Ridgewood. Fire marshals determined that the fire was ignited by occupants in an apartment when they left lit incense unattended.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro, FDNY Chief of the Department James E. Leonard joined the family of William Tolley, widow Marie and daughter Isabella(9), Tolley’s parents, brother and sister in laws, and other family members and hundreds of fire fighters, community members and elected officials to honor the FDNY 14-year veteran who was well known in the community around the firehouse. Tolley was remembered by the community as the unofficial firehouse welcomer, with his big smile and gift for gab. He was always present when school groups or families visited Engine 286/Ladder 135. Mayor de Blasio referred to William Tolley as,”an extraordinary man who will be remembered.” Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said, “Billy’s name and memory will forever be part of the firehouse he loved.” Chief of the Department,James E. Leonard told those who crowded into the firehouse for the plaque unveiling ceremony, “we must never forget Tolley.That’s how we live on. That’s why we are who we are. Because we can never forget.” Adding the importance of this ceremony he said,” There will be a time when nobody here knew Billy Tolley,…It’s our goal, our duty to remember.”

Following the speeches in the firehouse, Tolley’s family and friends joined the Mayor and Fire Commissioner for the unveiling of a plaque in William Tolley’s memory.

Following the plaque ceremony inside the firehouse everyone withdrew to the corner of Myrtle Ave and and 66th Place where William Tolley’s daughter, Isabella, surrounded by Mayor de Blasio, Fire Commissioner Nigro, Tolley’s widow, Marie, and family pulled the chord to unveil the ceremonial street renaming, Firefighter William N. Tolley Ladder Company 135 Way.

Last April the Queens Gazette reported on the tragic death of firefighter William Tolley. In our story we wrote that a student from a neighborhood school was returning to her home and witnessed Tolley falling 5 stories to his death from the roof of her home. “It is something I will never forget,”said the student.