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Steven Coakley
Age: 36
Occupation: Firefighter
Worked for: New York Fire Department
Originally from:
Resided in:

I didn't know Steve, but thought he should be on this page.
Submitted by: Jay Dooling ()

Other links: The Florida Life: NY Times


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Steven Coakley

A Fisherman Who Became a Hero

October 30, 2001

Teach a boy to fish, and he will stay out of trouble, goes the adage. And so Vinny Coakley started his boy, Steven, fishing on the Great South Bay and the Atlantic Ocean every Saturday and Sunday.

When Steven was 4, he caught his first freshwater fish. On his 15th birthday, he nabbed a 140-pound dusky shark and eight tunas in the 30-pound class. The shark's jaws, yellow and ossified, grimace from the kitchen wall in his parents' Deer Park home, where Steven, a firefighter with Ladder 217 in Bedford-Stuyvesant, also lived. Coakley has been missing since Sept. 11.

Reminders of his life hang on the Coakleys' walls - eight plaques in eight years for bravery as a Wyandanch volunteer firefighter, a diploma from the New York City Fire Academy, pictures of Coakley and his nieces.

For Coakley's first birthday, his grandfather Michael Teodorowicz, a New York City firefighter, bought him a ridable toy fire truck and a child's helmet. Coakley never expressed aloud an interest in firefighting, but at 17, three years after his grandfather died, he joined the Wyandanch fire volunteers, his mother, Carol, said.

Thursday would have been Coakley's 37th birthday. He was four years away from retiring permanently to the Madeira Bay, Fla., home he had transformed from a bungalow to a two-story palace with the help of his sister, Kara Walker, of Charlotte, N.C., an architect.

About eight years ago, he saw the house on his way to a Giants away game and knew he had found home. The day he bought the house was the happiest day of his life, his father said, as he showed a picture of his son smiling in his car on the way to sign the deed.

"This is his backyard," his father said, pointing to a picture of the Boca Ciega Bay.

In that backyard was a 1965 Bertram fishing boat that Coakley meticulously restored for boating outings with his girlfriend, Linda New, and friends John and Julie Kauzlarich at Shell Island. Relaxing with friends on his boat was his passion after years spent on the water, but fishing also taught him how to be helpful.

Around the firehouse Coakley was known as MacGyver, after the character in the old TV series, because he could and would fix anything needing retooling at the station. He would trade shifts with his firehouse buddies, stringing together vacation time to spend in Florida. Every year, however, he dragged his friends down south with him for a golf fund-raiser in memory of Ashley Nielsen, the 4-year-old daughter of a colleague's cousin. Through this effort, Coakley met David Moore, a tight end with the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers and part of Nielsen's extended family. The two had been fishing mates ever since.

Whether he was driving 36 straight hours to Charleston, S.C., with a generator truck to help the Hurricane Hugo relief efforts, or earning the 1987 Wyandanch Volunteer Fireman of the Year Award for saving a trapped woman who was critically burned, Coakley always said, "Nobig deal."

"Mom and Dad say, 'Big deal,'" his father said as he paged through albums filled with photos and lures. "Teach a boy to fish, and he will become a hero," his father said.

Visitation will be Friday from 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. at the Boyd-Caratozzolo Funeral Home in Deer Park. A memorial service is scheduled for 10:15 a.m. Saturday at St. Cyril & Methodius Church in Deer Park.

-- Kathryn Wellin (Newsday)
-- Jay Dooling ()
28 Nov 2001

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