One of FDNY's first female firefighters dies

Catherine Lohan, one of the women who smashed the FDNY’s gender barrier nearly 40 years ago to become a New York City firefighter, died at 68


By Ginger Adams Otis , Thomas Tracy and John Annese
New York Daily News

NEW YORK — Catherine Lohan, one of the women who smashed the FDNY’s gender barrier nearly 40 years ago to become a New York City firefighter, died on Tuesday. She was 68.

Lohan was 32 when she graduated from the FDNY’s rigorous Fire Academy in 1982 — one of 41 women who joined the department after a historic federal gender discrimination lawsuit.

Catherine Lohan, one of the women who smashed the FDNY’s gender barrier nearly 40 years ago to become a New York City firefighter, died at 68. (Photo/Facebook)
Catherine Lohan, one of the women who smashed the FDNY’s gender barrier nearly 40 years ago to become a New York City firefighter, died at 68. (Photo/Facebook)

She died in her Ridgefield, Conn., home, her family said.

“All the women firefighters from the original group that came on in 1982 are saddened by Cathy’s passing,” said retired FDNY Captain Brenda Berkman, who launched the legal battle to open the FDNY’s all-male ranks to women. “We formed a close bond in the academy and over the many years we served together and it’s always sad when a pioneer leaves us.”

Lohan worked in Engine 61 in the Bronx and Engine 299 in Queens, and taught sensitivity classes at the Fire Academy. She retired in 1992.

“Cathy was highly motivated. I remember she came out to the academy prior to coming on the job to train to take the test. She showed up, that’s for sure,” Berkman said.

FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro praised Lohan Wednesday.

“Through her courage as one of our first female Firefighters, and her brave service to the city, Firefighter Lohan has inspired many more women to join the ranks of the FDNY for generations to come,” he said.

The FDNY has struggled to add women to its ranks since 1982.

Fifteen women graduated from the Academy in October, the largest number of new female firefighters since that initial 1982 class — bringing the total number of female firefighters in the FDNY to 87.

“Those first women had an incredible amount of courage to go back day after day amid the bullying and pressure put upon them,” said FDNY chaplain Rev. Ann Kansfield, who’s quoted in Lohan’s obituary in the Ridgefield Hamlet Hub. “Just coming to work day in and day out helped pave the way for so many other women.”

Lohan is survived by her husband, her sister, four children and six grandchildren.

Her wake is scheduled from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday at Kane Funeral Home in Ridgefield, followed by a funeral mass at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at St. Elizabeth Seton Church, also in Ridgefield.

Copyright 2019 New York Daily News

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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