All present and former members are invited to a graveside service for Firefighter Louis Valentino F.D.N.Y. Rescue 2 who was killed in the line of duty on February 5th , 1996. The service will be held on Thursday , February 5th , 11 a.m. at The Greenwood Cemetary in Brooklyn. A lunch will follow. Call the firehouse for more details.
An article that was published in 1996:
With Firefighter's Death, Brooklyn Loses a SonBy CHARISSE JONESPublished: February 7, 1996
Louis Valentino was a son of Brooklyn. He jogged the streets of Red Hook, loved sandwiches with eggplant and peppers, and worked as a lifeguard at Coney Island.
But on Monday, the firefighter was killed in his home borough when the roof of an auto body shop came crashing down as he searched for people inside. He was the third firefighter to die on duty in less than six weeks, and the latest loss to the New York City Fire Department in what has become a drumbeat of sorrow.
It's always the good people that this happens to," said Phil Malenczak, 44, who was Mr. Valentino's mentor when he first entered a Flatbush firehouse 11 years ago. "It's true what they say -- only the good die young. Louis was a prince."
Mr. Valentino's father, Louis Sr., a former deputy commissioner for labor affairs for New York State, had been a longshoremen, and his son loved the water. But from the time the younger Louis was a small boy, he dreamed of spending his life fighting fires.
The men in Flatbush were the firefighters who knew him first and best. They remember when he joined Engine Company 281 in July 1984, helping to hose down blazes and peppering older firefighters with constant questions. His prowess at softball helped their team win four championships.
And they watched his eagerness to get assignments that would bring him closer to rescuing those trapped in blazes.
"When Louis first got here, he was like a sponge," Firefighter Bill Johnson, who has been with the department for 17 years, said. "He'd ask you a thousand questions. Sometimes, you'd have to tell him, 'Louis, please, I'm too tired to do this right now.' "
Mr. Valentino, 37, moved to a ladder company in 1986, becoming one of the firefighters whose job it was to enter buildings and search for those inside. But co-workers said Mr. Valentino, an avid athlete, became a certified scuba diver in the hope that it would help elevate him to one of the department's elite rescue units, those given the most dangerous and unusual assignments.
In October 1993, he got his wish when he was accepted as a member of Brooklyn's Rescue Company 2 in Crown Heights.
"He ate, slept and dreamed being a firefighter," said a tearful Jeff Szczecinski, who worked with Mr. Valentino and said he considered him one of his best friends.
In the den of Mr. Valentino's Bensonhurst home, a room dotted with model fire engines, friends said that Mr. Valentino kept a bulletin board on which he pinned patches representing every engine and ladder company in New York City. But his heart seemed anchored in Brooklyn, where he was raised in a close-knit family, was educated at St. Francis College and lived with his wife, Diane, a part-time legal secretary.
While Mr. Valentino lived in Bensonhurst, his parents had called Red Hook home since before the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel was completed, in 1950, neighbors recalled. His father is a longtime official of the International Longshoreman's Association who ran for the City Council in 1991. His mother, Phyllis, was described by neighbors as a "neighborhood girl."
The child who people said would do anything to help his neighbors grew into a muscular athlete, whose taste in food was as familiar as the wave he tossed when he jogged past Defonte's delicatessen, a Brooklyn institution known for its hero sandwiches.
"His favorite combination for a sandwich was peppers, fried eggplant and provolone," Vito Defonte, who owns Defonte's on Columbia Street, said. "He loved it. He grew up, got married and moved to Staten Island. But he didn't like it very much, because he moved back to Brooklyn. They were planning to have a family. But those things are all gone now. We lost a wonderful person."
In 1979, Mr. Valentino graduated magna cum laude from St. Francis and briefly attended law school. But he ultimately decided instead to pursue his dream of joining the Fire Department.
Mr. Valentino's lifelong desire to help others was rewarded twice with citations for bravery; in February 1987, after he and another firefighter captured a criminal who had stolen jewelry from a woman, and again in February 1990, after Mr. Valentino rescued a man from the second floor of a burning building.
Mr. Valentino entered the burning shop on Monday not knowing that there was apparently no one inside to save. On Friday, a Mass will be offered in his memory, and his friends, family and co-workers will bury him in Brooklyn.
"I know I lost a real good friend," Mr. Szczecinski said, "and the city lost the best."
Photo: Louis Valentino, who died in a fire on Monday, in an undatedphotograph. Mr. Valentino, center, stood beside Peter McLaughlin of Rescue Company 4, who died fighting a fire in Queens in October 1995. (Linda Rosier for The New York Times)