Many East Rockaway firefighters say they experience a wave of emotions when reflecting on Oct. 11, 1970.
On that day 50 years ago, firefighter Robert Pryer died when he fell off a Company No. 2 fire truck while responding to an early-morning car fire. He was 26. Pryer is the only East Rockaway firefighter to die in the line of duty.
To honor his life and commemorate his death, Pryer’s family and friends, dozens of East Rockaway firefighters and elected officials gathered on Clark Street last Saturday — the 50th anniversary of his death — to rename the street Captain Robert Pryer Place.
“My brother was very generous,” recalled Timothy Pryer, who has been a Hempstead firefighter for 12 years and is one of Pryer’s 12 siblings. “He never hesitated to help anybody, and I followed in his footsteps by becoming a firefighter. I was 10 when my brother passed away, and I can still hear his laugh today.”
When Pryer died, future Fire Chief Bobby Klose was also 10. Klose, whose father was the ERFD chief at the time, knew Pryer through his father.
“Robert Pryer was a hardworking firefighter, and he was a role model to me,” said Klose, a 42-year ERFD member. “Today we honor Pryer, and we want to show his family that we never forget.”
Pryer’s sister Ruth Fallon said she was in shock when she got the phone call in which she learned that her brother had died.
“It was a phone call no one ever thought we would get,” she said. “Not a day goes by without remembering him. We will never forget.”
East Rockaway community and ERFD leaders spoke at the ceremony, recalling the person and dedicated firefighter that Pryer was. ERFD Chaplain Mary Fahey said Pryer’s story is still passed on to incoming firefighters, and said she believed his memory will “always shine on.”
Hempstead Town Councilman Anthony D’Esposito said Pryer “left his home to protect the Village of East Rockaway, and in that, he made the ultimate sacrifice. Renaming this street is about the future, and we thank him for making that ultimate sacrifice.”