Photo by Ryan Kelley/QNS
Firefighter William Tolley's wife, Maria, and daughter, Bella, pull the cover off a street sign dedicated to the fallen hero on Sept. 26 at the corner of 66th Place and Myrtle Avenue in Glendale.

The corner of 66th Place and Myrtle Avenue in Glendale will forever bear the name of Firefighter William N. Tolley after a ceremony was held on Sept. 26 to honor and remember the fallen hero.

Hundreds of firefighters joined Tolley’s family inside the firehouse of Engine Company 286/Ladder Company 135, where Mayor Bill de Blasio, Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro, Councilman Robert Holden and several other FDNY officials spoke before unveiling the line of duty death plaque and street sign in Tolley’s honor.

On April 20, 2017, while responding to a two-alarm fire in Ridgewood, Tolley fell five stories to his death after riding a bucket ladder up to the roof of the building.

The ceremony was led by Captain Rich Blasi, commanding officer of the firehouse, who began by thanking everyone in attendance before addressing Tolley’s family sitting in the front row. Tolley spent all 14 years of his FDNY career in Glendale as part of the “Myrtle Turtles.”

“We came together as one family, we shared that pain, but I believe that sharing that pain is what gave us the will to endure it,” Blasi said. “We are always here for all of you.”

As the first speaker, de Blasio took a moment to commend Blasi for the strength he has shown in leading his firehouse through such a difficult time, but then the mayor turned his attention to the family as well. De Blasio spoke directly to Tolley’s daughter, Bella, and explained that he, too, lost his father, a wounded World War II veteran, at a young age.

“When you know your dad is a hero, it’s something you carry with you your whole life,” de Blasio said to Bella. “Someday there will be a challenge and you’ll feel the presence of your father there to cradle you and support you. You’ll feel his goodness, and that will give you the strength you need to carry forward.”

Photo by Ryan Kelley/QNS

Photo by Ryan Kelley/QNS

Tolley was described by everyone who knew him as someone who loved his job, his family and rock ‘n’ roll. He was an avid heavy metal drummer in his band, Internal Bleeding, which released five albums and was internationally known. His fellow firefighters also remembered him as someone who always tinkered with the rig and worked on small projects around the firehouse.

As a volunteer firefighter on Long Island at the time, Tolley rushed into the city after the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, to search through the rubble for survivors.

“To say he was talented and special is a terrible understatement,” said Nigro. “He had a true passion for his job because this job was his dream and he fulfilled it to the absolute fullest. He loved knowing that the job made it possible to make a positive impact on others.”

Tolley’s wife, Marie, was given a standing ovation when she was welcomed up to the podium to speak, and she thanked everyone for their constant support over the past 18 months. Holden also extended his appreciation for Tolley’s brother, Robert, who created the Fire & Drums Foundation to help the families of first responders killed in the line of duty.

“William Tolley is remembered as a loving father, devoted firefighter, and his memory will carry on in the hearts not only of his family, but in the hearts of this community,” Holden said.

On Sept. 29, Engine Company 286/Ladder Company 135 and the Fire & Drums Foundation will host the first annual William Tolley Fundraiser from 12:30 to 4 p.m. at Plattdeutsche Park in Franklin Square.


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