By Kevin Boyle
This column is reprinted from the May 5, 2022, issue of The Rockaway Times.
He said he was speaking for all of the Canarsie firehouse when he concluded his eulogy, “We will never forget you. We all love you, Kleino.” But Vin Geary, friend and fellow firefighter of Tim Klein, could have been speaking for thousands of people. Thousands who came to St. Francis de Sales last Friday. Thousands who watched the livestream and thousands and thousands from across the city and country.
You didn’t have to personally know Tim Klein to love Klein-o. You love him for his bravery and service. And you love him because of what you learned, what others said about him. You love that he was born a fighter. He was diagnosed with a rare form of anemia at nine months and illness and hospital visits were common as a child. But he persevered.
You love him because illness and physical challenges didn’t stop him from playing and excelling in sports. He was small but, again, he persevered.
You loved him because he followed his dream. And followed in the FDNY footsteps of his dad and grandfather, his uncles, and cousins.
And you love him because his study hall in college was Murph’s Pub. You loved him because he reminds you of the best friends you’ve had in your life. Including the mischievous ones, especially the mischievous ones. You love when his mother says the family rule was the door was locked at 4 in the morning and Tim was often on the wrong side of the door.
You love Tim because of where you live. Few places in the country are so closely identified with firefighters than Rockaway. Through generation after generation, members of the FDNY are born and bred here. A death in the line of duty shakes the community to its core. When word spread about Tim, words like devastating and horrible and heartbreaking didn’t come close to capturing the shock and pain. In the days after, it seemed like so many people were in a stunned state of sadness.
The Klein family somehow shook us all out of it. They were keen on celebrating Tim’s life, not the tragedy. Vin Geary and Jimmy Quinn and Adam Bishop were among those who helped lift the clouds a little. We heard about Tim and the Yankees, Rangers, koozies, sharing stories with his dad, on a first name basis with his mom, his dedication to the job, pranking guys, battling and loving his sisters like the best kind of brother.
What a life.
You know, we’re taught to love our fellow man – well, it’s easy when it’s a fellow like Tim.
On behalf of your extended family everywhere: We all love you Kleino.