FDNY firefighter remembered as 'the greatest firefighter'

A colleague choked back tears as he pledged that Ladder 135 would make sure William Tolley's daughter was taken care of

By Mark Morales

NEW YORK — In a heartfelt eulogy that left many in tears, Jarrett Kotarski remembered the friend he knew simply as “Billy, from the firehouse.”

Kotarski, an FDNY firefighter who worked with William Tolley at Ladder 135 in Queens, told mourners Thursday about the Tolley he knew — a humble man who always put Isabella, his 8-year-old daughter, first.

“Whether he was putting up Bella’s new artwork all over his locker or he was asking us about what princess he should see first when he gets to Disney World, Bella was his first and foremost priority,” Kotarski said at the Bethpage funeral. “The apple of his eye and second to none.”

He choked back tears as he pledged that Ladder 135 would make sure the girl was taken care of.

“Billy, we’re your brother, and just like in the firehouse, we got you,” Kotarski said. “Bella is our little girl now, and we’re going to take good care of her for you.”

In a seven-minute tribute that ended in a standing ovation, Kotarski said, “Billy lived his life to the fullest. He chased down all his dreams and he caught them.”

Reflecting on Tolley’s side career as a musician, Kotarski described him as “a kind of squared-away guy. Always had his hair cut the right way, uniform proper ... yet he’s this famous drummer in this insane metal band.”

He said Tolley never bragged about that.

“You weren’t a good guy or a great fireman,” Kotarski said in closing. “You were the best guy and the greatest fireman, and we’re going to miss you forever, brother.”

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