Friends, colleagues remember fallen firefighter


Firefighter William Tolley visited a favorite bakery of his in search of a symbolic dessert for a First Holy Communion just hours before the Bravest tragically plunged five-stories to his death from the bucket of a ladder truck in Queens Thursday.

William TolleyAP

Tolley, 42, stopped in Glendale’s Mahalo New York Bakery – which is next door to his firehouse, Ladder 135/Engine 286 – before he was called to the afternoon minor fire inside a Ridgewood building, the owner said Friday.

“He was on shift…We knew him as Billy, and he was in here looking for something for a communion, specifically a cross made out of cupcakes,” owner Sunita Shudin said.

“He looked at it, took some information and said, ‘I’ll be right back,’” Shudin said. “We get that all the time. The guys at the firehouse will come in, get a coffee, or something, and they’ll run out and say they’ll be right back. It’s just sad. He didn’t come back.”

Tolley, a married father of an 8-year-old girl and 14-year FDNY veteran, was trying to help his colleagues atop 1615 Putnam Ave. where they had just put out the blaze at around 3 p.m. when he fatally fell.

FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said Thursday night after Tolley died at Wyckoff Heights Medical Center that Tolley was performing a “routine operation” when something went horribly wrong.

Shudin said that Tolley often stopped in the Myrtle Ave. sweet shop after a shift, mainly for cupcakes.

“He’d get a vanilla or a milk lover [cupcake flavor] and he’d say “this is my treat to go home with,’” said Shudin who described Tolley as “A very sweet guy. Very nice, very helpful.”

She added, that Tolley was especially “caring and affectionate” toward children.

“Billy was one of those guys who always took the time to say, ‘oh this is a fire truck.’ He would be like ‘do you want to go in the truck buddy?’” Shudin recalled.

Meanwhile, community residents stopped by the firehouse Friday to lay flowers at a makeshift memorial for Tolley.

“Terrible accident, terrible. He’s a hero,” Marianna Buxeli said as she laid down a bouquet of flowers.

Donna Nielsen, who also went to the join scores of firefighters outside of the hospital Thursday night, said, “He is a true hero. It’s unbelievable that he went to work and didn’t come home to his wife and his daughter.”

Marie Tolley hugs an FDNY member outside her house on Long Island Friday morning.VictorAlcorn.com

Outside of Tolley’s Bethpage, Long Island home, an American flag flew on a flag pole at half-staff.

Neighbor Mile Gleason, 69, called Tolley “just tremendous.”

“He was a great neighbor an outstanding firefighter and I feel terrible for his wife and daughter,” said Gleason who spoke to Tolley the day he died.

“He was taking his daughter to school,” Gleason said.

Tolley was also a renowned heavy-metal drummer in his spare time for the band, Internal Bleeding.

“Bill was our rock. Our heart. And supplier of insane laughter. There are no words. The music world lost a very influential drummer, and the world lost a friend, a father and a damn good man,” the band said on its Facebook page.



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