William Tolley, fallen FDNY firefighter, remembered at wake, funeral

The family, friends and colleagues of FDNY firefighter William Tolley, who fell to his death at the scene of a fire in Ridgewood on April 20, gathered Thursday to pay their final respects to the 14-year veteran.

The funeral Mass, at St. Martin of Tours in Bethpage, Long Island, was held from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and followed two days of wake services, where Tolley was remembered as a loving father and dedicated firefighter. He leaves behind a wife, Marie, and 8-year-old daughter, Isabella.

Thousands of firefighters — from New York City and Long Island and as far away as Chicago, Detroit and Louisiana — stood at attention, side-by-side in their dress uniforms, as the funeral procession for Tolley made its way up the street.

Trees and signposts near the church were decorated with red ribbons, a show of support for Tolley.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, delivering one of several eulogies, said Tolley lived an exemplary life.

“Our hearts are broken today, as we lay to rest a hero . . . We’re here to honor his life, and mourn its end,” the mayor said. “His life was rich, so rich in fact that it makes the loss even more raw and painful. But let’s take stock and remember, a rich life, a full life . . . a life lived the way we all should live, that was Billy’s life.”

Tolley, 42, fell five stories while he was ventilating the roof of the building on Putnam Avenue. Investigators are still looking into what went wrong and whether Tolley was getting into the bucket at the top of the ladder truck when he fell.

During his eulogy, de Blasio recalled how Tolley stopped at a bakery that afternoon of his final call, to pick up dessert for Bella’s first Communion.

The mayor addressed Isabella, saying he too lost his dad at a young age.

“Sometimes, of course, you’ll wish you knew him better. You wish you had more time,” de Blasio said. “But you’ll never have to wonder about his character.”

In lieu of flowers, the Tolley family has asked that donations be made to the William N. Tolley’s Children’s Educational Fund. The money will be used to pay for his daughter’s education.

With Newsday

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