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[Share]Published: June 19, 2013

Engine 279/Ladder 131 Celebrate Centennial, Honor a Retired Firefighter

FDNY Chaplain Monsignor John Delendick blesses the plaques marking Engine 279 and Ladder 131's centennial.

FDNY Chaplain Monsignor John Delendick blesses the plaques marking Engine 279 and Ladder 131's centennial.

Engine 279/Ladder 131 feted 100 years of service to the Red Hook, Brooklyn, community on June 19 during their centennial celebration.

“Thank you for the great job you do every day,” said Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano, who grew up near the firehouse. “There’s a strong spirit of tradition within these walls.”

The firehouse honored its past, present and future members at the event, and paid tribute to the nine firefighters who have died in the line of duty, including five at the World Trade Center.

“This is a company full of pride, with a great work ethic and true grit,” Chief of Operations James Esposito said.

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz attended the ceremony to read a proclamation, naming the day Engine 279 and Ladder 131 100th Anniversary Celebration Day in Brooklyn.

“There’s no question, the resident of New York City love you, trust you, adore you and depend upon you every day,” he said.

A stained glass mural at the firehouse, one of many throughout the city created by retired Firefighter Harry Gillen (inset).

A stained glass mural at the firehouse, one of many throughout the city created by retired Firefighter Harry Gillen (inset).

Among the members honored at the event was retired Firefighter Harry Gillen. He grew up across the street from the firehouse, and in 1944, when he was just 13-years-old, started coming to the firehouse and became friends with the members.

He was hired as an FDNY firefighter when he was 24, and was assigned to Ladder 131, where he worked for more than 40 years. Yet, although he retired in 1997, he continues coming to the firehouse, arriving at 8 a.m. to have breakfast with the firefighters.

After that, he goes upstairs to a small workshop he has on the second floor where he has a small workshop to make stained glass panes. He has created the artwork for various firehouses, the Fire Academy on Randalls Island, the Fire Commissioner and others. He charges only for the materials and says he does the work, “for the love of the [Department].”

Capt. Peter Archer, Engine 279, thanked Firefighter Gillen during the event for “all he has done and will continue to do for our members.”

Yet Firefighter Gillen said he was humbled by all the attention he was receiving, “It’s a good day for the firehouse. I’ve been looking forward to this day for a long time. It’s a great group [of firefighters] here.”

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