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Woodhaven firefighter remembered six years later

Six years after his death, Patricia Eggers still vividly remembers Lt. Robert Wallace, who was known throughout his hometown of Woodhaven as a great firefighter. But to those that knew him, he was simply a great man.
“He was a very involved father,” Eggers said of Wallace, who perished in the attacks of September 11, 2001. “He was a huge presence in his kids’ lives.”
Wallace had four children - Janine, 27, Robert 25, Alex, 19, and Dan, 23. Tragically, Dan died earlier this year.
Eggers teaches eighth grade social studies at St. Thomas the Apostle School in Woodhaven, where each of Wallace’s kids attended middle school. Eggers, however, knew the Wallace family before she started teaching, and remembers the friendship her son shared with Wallace’s youngest son, Alex.
“Sometimes, [Wallace] would work a 24-hour shift at the Fire Department and show up at our kids’ basketball game with a large coffee. That was his trademark.”
When he joined Engine 205 in Brooklyn Heights, Wallace was following the footsteps of his father, who was an FDNY Lieutenant. During his time as a firefighter, Wallace, who wore badge number 1457, received two commendations for bravery.
“He was always willing to help people,” said St. Thomas first-grade teacher Christina Hughes, who taught each of Wallace’s kids. “Without a doubt, he was a brave man.”
After his death, the corner of 86th Street and 90th Avenue, near his home, was renamed after Wallace. Eggers said Woodhaven lost “a part of the community” when Wallace died.
Fr. William Hoppe, pastor at St. Thomas, led a memorial service for Wallace on October 27, 2001.
“It was a huge turnout,” said Hoppe. “The mayor [Rudolph Giuliani] was there. I remember him saying to the kids, ‘You haven’t lost your father - he’ll always live on inside of you.’”
This may be most true for Robert, Jr., who has decided to become the third generation of Wallace firefighters, recently joining the force.
“He wanted to carry on his father’s legacy,” said Eggers. “We always used to call him Bobby, but after his father died, he insisted on being called Rob.”
Other members of the Wallace family moved from Woodhaven to Long Island, but Wallace’s sister, Megan Rodriguez, and her husband, Domingo Rodriguez, chose to stay in the house Robert had lived in. They put his picture in the house’s front window, where it remained for years.
Eggers remembers when the Wallace family still lived in that house.
“They held a vigil for him in the month after September 11, when they didn’t know whether he had died or not,” she said. “Friends of his kids, people from the community, they sat outside, lit candles, put flowers out - they were really holding onto hope.”
Wallace’s family chose not to comment on the life of its patriarch. Hoppe said he understands the choice.
“I think they’re trying to move forward without forsaking the memory of their [loved one],” he said. “And that’s extremely hard.”

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