Joseph Walto was born on March 13, 1881. He died on Christmas Day in 1943 at the age of 62, while fighting a disastrous fire. Lt. Walto worked as a driver for the Five Mile Electric Trolley Car Company and later worked for Atlantic City Electric where his duties included manually turning on the island’s street lamps. He was later a supervisor of electric repairman until the fatal fire.
Lt. Walto was stricken at the fire scene and was transported to Dr. Maggie Mace’s Hospital in North Wildwood. Dr. Mace summoned Walto’s family to his side. Lt. Joseph R. Walto, a 27 year firefighting volunteer died two hours after being stricken. His son, Army Staff Sgt. Joseph John Walto, learned of his father’s death while he was preparing for the allied assault on Anzio Beach, Italy, in World War II.
The blaze was considered the worst in the history of the cities of Wildwood and North Wildwood. It swept three boardwalk blocks, including the famous Ocean Pier, hotels and stores. Along with all the building northward on the boardwalk from Poplar Avenue, additional homes on Juniper Avenue and 26th Street were damaged.
Lt. Joseph R. Walto was survived at the time of his death by his wife, Carla K. Walto; daughter Elisabeth Walto; son Charles S. and his wife Francis Walto and son Joseph John.
This firefighter line of duty fatality occurred before the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial was built in Emmitsburg, Maryland. While this firefighter has not been officially honored at the Memorial site, there are plans to do so when resources are available.