Born in Morris Township, New Jersey, to Bridget and James J. Reilly on June 25, 1926, James P. Reilly was 85 years old at the time of his passing in 2011.
Jim was an active member of the Woodland Hook & Ladder Company #1 in Morris Township, New Jersey for sixty-two years. He qualified as an operator and served as lieutenant, captain, assistant chief and department deputy chief. At the age of 85, he was still running to calls and serving as accountability officer, where he maintained a list of all firefighters on scene and their assignments.
He was a member of the Morris Township Exempt Firemen’s Association, the New Jersey State Fireman’s Exempt Association, and the New Jersey State Fire Chiefs’ Association. In 1971, he was honored with the Schaefer Beer Firefighter of the Year award for heroism and bravery. In 1999, he was honored with a citation from the New Jersey State Firemen’s Association recognizing his dedication and service to the residents of Morris Township, New Jersey.
He was a member of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters Local #620 in Madison, New Jersey, for over thirty years.
He was a devoted and longtime parishioner and usher at St. Thomas More church in Convent Station, New Jersey.
Jim served in the United States Army Air Force as a staff sergeant, crew chief, aircraft mechanic, and top turret gunner. He was qualified to fly on several multi-engine aircraft, but his favorite was the B-17 Flying Fortress. He was part of an alert crew that saw action in Europe and North Africa during World War II. In 2001, he was presented the Morris County, New Jersey Distinguished Service Medal, presented to veterans of World War II, and the New Jersey Distinguished Service Medal in recognition of honorable service and bravery.
Jim was married for 53 years to Elizabeth M. Reilly. They had two children, James J. Reilly and Regina E. Reilly. Jim was quite proud of the heritage and tradition of volunteerism. He was part of four generations serving the Morris Township community along with his son, his father, and his grandfather, all members of Woodland.
Jim was a collector of antique automobiles and had a 1929 Packard and a 1930 Model A Ford. His nickname was “Wheels” because of his car collection and his penchant to drive fast. One evening, after driving the American LaFrance ladder truck to a call, one of his neighbors asked him why he drove the truck the way he did. His response was, “I drive the truck to a fire, the way I hope somebody would drive it if my house were on fire.”
Jim loved being a firefighter and helping others.