(November 9) - We have been notified and are deeply saddened to report the passing earlier today of retired Deputy Chief (Platoon Commander) Joseph McDermott, 93, who served on the department for 38 years.
Considered by many of his peers to be a "fireman's fireman," A veteran of World War II, Dep. Chief McDermott joined the department on May 11, 1953. He was one of the first driver's the department's first aerial ladder truck in 1958. In 1961, he was cited for saving the life of a one-year old toddler who had stopped breathing. He performed mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and revived the child, who had been brought to the fire station.
When a second lieutenant's position was added to each of the three platoons in 1963, McDermott was promoted to fill one of the three new slots and assigned to Platoon 1 on Engine 3 and Rescue 1 at old Station 3 on Putnam Avenue. With the 42-hour workweek in 1970, he was promoted to captain and assigned to Station 2 on the new Platoon 4. Three years later he was promoted to deputy chief and commanded Platoon 2 until his retirement. He received several commendations over the course of his career and was twice named Fireman of the Year.
Dep. Chief McDermott is survived by his loving wife Helen McDonough McDermott, a son Steven (Rita) McDermott of Middletown, grandchildren, Allison, Leah, Daniel, Rebecca and Emily and a great granddaughter Selma. He was predeceased by a daughter Patricia Pederson, a brother Vincent McDermott and his first wife Mildred Selmquist McDermott.
(November 12th) - A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated this morning at Church of the Ascension, 1040 Dunbar Hill Road, Hamden, with burial following at All Saints Cemetery, North Haven.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to Helen and the rest of the McDermott family at this sad time.
I.A. Sneiderman photo (courtesy of Larry Gershman)
In December 1958, Firefighter Joseph McDermott was a driver of Hamden's new aerial ladder truck. Five years later, McDermott was promoted to lieutenant when a new company officer was added to each of the three platoons. Promoted to captain in 1970, McDermott became a deputy chief (shift commander) in 1973. Dep. Chief Joseph McDermott retired in September 1991 and was a founding member of the HFRA. (I.A. Sneiderman photo courtesy of Larry Gershman)
I.A. Sneiderman photo (courtesy of Larry Gershman)
New Haven Register, March 13, 1961 (Articles courtesy of Chan Brainard and Gil Spencer)
In March 1961, Firefighter Joe McDermott, whose men have called him a "fireman's fireman," was formally recognized by the Board of Fire Commissioners for saving the life of a one-year old West Haven boy. The child became unresponsive two months earlier while traveling with his parents in Hamden. They stopped at Station 2 for assistance. Firefighter Joseph McDermott performed mouth-to-mouth resusciation on the child, who was revived.
From the You-Just-Can't-Make-This-Stuff-Up Department:
Here's the rest of the story . . .
Shortly after the article appeared on the website in March 2016, we were contacted by Deputy Chief Bob Freemen (WHFD, Ret.), who thought he knew the present whereabouts of the child whose life was saved by Joe.
The guy had attempted to contact Joe years before, but Joe and his wife Helen were then residing in Florida. And confidentiality policies prevented the town from revealing Joe's Florida address.
In his quest to locate and thank the man who had saved his life so many years earlier, the grateful fellow had hit a brick wall. But that all changed shortly after the article appeared, thanks to Bob Freeman's sharp eye and the exchange of a few emails.
55 years later, Joe McDermott and the boy whose life he saved had a reunion at a local restaurant.
Chief James P. O'Brien (WHFD) and Dep. Chief Joe McDermott (HFD, Ret.)
Joe McDermott's quick thinking and heroic actions that day in January 1961
saved the life of James P. O'Brien, who today is Chief of the West Haven Fire Department.
The legendary Hull's brewery on New Haven's Congress Avenue allowed groups to avail themselves of their rathskellar for special occasions - free of charge and beer included. This portion of a much larger group shot of the Platoon 1 guys (and a few "guests") features, standing left to right, John McKee, Stan Brown, Joe, Vinny Roth, and Dick Stacey (standing above Roth). Sitting, left to right, are Dick Carney, Joe Rahl, Dave Herrmann, retired Firefighter Clem Kammerer, Carmen Amarante, and Tom Doherty.
This 1964 photo taken in front of Station 2 features the crew of Station 3. Left to right are, Lieut. Joe McDermott, and Firefighters Dave Herrmann, Ray Bantz, Jerold Bradbury, and Howie Hurlburt Sr.
Eddy Doiron caught Joe and a few others in this 1969 Memorial Day Parade photo, taken on Dixwell Avenue just south of the Wilbur Cross Parkway overpass. Left to right are, Firefighters Roger Sullivan, Warren Blake, Gil Spencer, Joe, and Eddie Badamo.
Lieut. McDermott and Firefighter Walt Vining during hose testing on a Putnam Avenue street corner sometime in 1969.
Promoted to captain a few months earlier, here's Joe with his crew at Station 2 in 1971. Standing up top on Engine 2 (when it was still painted white), are Firefighters Joe Mulligan and Billy Giaquinto. Left to right below, are Firefighters Harold Mangler, Billy Mulcahy, Ray Dobbs, Howie Hurlburt Jr., and Harry Cubbellotti.
Joe was already shift commander of Platoon 2 when this photo of him rappeling off old Centerville School was taken in 1974. His chief officer status notwithstanding, Joe never expected his guys to do anything that he would not do himself. "A Fireman's Fireman!"
April 1988 - With camera in hand, the department training officer caught Joe, far right, with Capt. Bill Coppola's crew at Station 4. Left to right, are Firefighters Ron Desroches, Bill Fitzmaurice, Bob Anthony, Harold Prescher, and Capt. Mike Ambriscoe, filling in for Coppola that day.
Joe is pictured here outside Station 4 with Car 3, a brand new 1987 GMC Jimmy. This was when officers wore white dress caps only from Memorial Day until Labor Day - blue dress caps the rest of the year.
CLICK TO ENLARGE
Joe was off-duty on September 27, 1991, when Chief John Tramontano chauffeured him around to every firehouse on Platoon 2's last day shift before the end of the month. At Station 4, off-duty Firefighter Bobby Macauley snapped this photo of the Station 4 crew on Joe's official last day on the job. L-R: Capt. Dave Johnson, Ff. Ron Desroche, Ff. Bob Anthony, B/C Bill Coppola, McDermott, Tramontano, Ff. Bill Fitzmaurice, Ff. Eddy Doiron (off-duty), and Ff. Jimmy Dunlop.
Several of Joe's guys got together with him at a diner in Branford in the Summer of 2009. Left to right, are Dave Johnson, Eddy Doiron, Jimmy Dunlop, Joe, and Gil Spencer, who was Joe's second-in-command for several years before making chief level rank himself. (A little old exiting the diner generously offered to take the photo so everyone could be in it.)