There are many ways one can excel in the fire service. Most often, attention is given to those firefighters who perform heroic rescues, or put themselves in harm’s way in order to perform their duties on the fireground. There are, however, firefighters who deserve to be recognized simply because they embody the true spirit of what it means to be a firefighter, and by doing so earn the unconditional admiration and respect of his colleagues and friends all around him. Such a firefighter is Anthony (“Tony”) Catapano of FDNY Engine 202.
With perhaps more years on the job now than anyone else in the department – senior brass included – Firefighter Catapano joined the New York City Fire Department in 1963, and was 23 years old when he was assigned to Engine Company 202 in Brooklyn. Now, over 41 years later, he is still assigned to 202, and has never been happier. Come next May, however, Catapano will turn 65 and be forced into retirement – something that neither he or his comrades at the firehouse are looking forward to. “I have known Tony now for the three years I’ve been assigned to E-202, and I have never met a better man,” says fellow firefighter Andy Singleton. “Tony can always be seen around the firehouse with a rag hanging from his belt, as he is constantly busy. Whether it be washing the rig, cleaning tools, preparing meals, playing all-star caliber second base in softball, or passing down the wealth of knowledge he possesses, Tony truly exemplifies what a fireman should be. He is the first one to step up in the firehouse for any brother, regardless of the situation. He always puts the job and its members before himself and his personal needs.”
Firefighter Joe Farinacci agrees. “He’s pretty much like everyone’s father around here, full of stories about his years on the job. He’s a big asset to the firehouse, and he’ll be a big loss.”
Regarding his impending retirement, Firefighter Catapano still keeps a sense of humor: “Some guys do 20 and they’re out,” he says. “I always thought that I’d know when my time had come…I guess it took me 42 years to figure that out!” It’s no secret that he’ll miss being at the firehouse, and turning out when the tones come over the loudspeaker and the computer printer starts to chatter. “It’s an unbelievable job…I hate to leave it.”