Martin J. McHale, or “Woody” as he was called by his friends, joined the New York City Fire Department (FDNY) in 1989. He worked in Brooklyn’s Engine 252, which later became Squad 252, and was promoted to fire marshal in 1999.
Aside from his cherished wife, Hope, and sons, Matthew John and Ryan Damien, Woody’s job was his life. Fiercely devoted to the FDNY, he personified all that it symbolizes: bravery, dedication, and public service. He genuinely loved his work and brought his heart and soul to the department, its brotherhood, and the city he served. He was our protector—and the public’s—in every sense of the word.
He was the proud recipient of numerous medals and awards throughout his career, including a B Medal in 1995, unit citations in 2005 and 2006, and a posthumously awarded Deputy Commissioner Christine R. Godek Medal in 2013. In October 2014, a playground was dedicated in his honor in Fort Totten, New York, across from Citywide North Command, where he last worked.
He was a man of strong character and integrity both on and off duty and displayed his innate leadership abilities in everything he did. When tragedy struck his beloved city on 9/11, he was off duty but arrived before the towers collapsed to be of service to his community and colleagues. He then spent weeks at the site during the rescue and recovery periods. In happier times, Woody played on the FDNY football team “The Bravest Football Club” for two decades and was captain for twelve of those years.
Woody was a man larger than life, filled with the infectious energy, passion, and enthusiasm of a boy and the love, kindness, and concern for others of a rare and remarkable man. He was loved by all that knew him and, at over six feet tall, was often referred to as a “gentle giant.” Woody was extremely proud of his Irish and Italian heritage and was a very patriotic man who deeply loved this country. His passions included football, cooking, and working out daily, and he loved sharing these interests with those in his life, whether it was cooking for fellow firefighters and family or going to the gym with friends.
Woody had a genuine love for life and is greatly missed by his family. He is survived by his wife, Hope (Gottlieb) McHale; twin sons, Matthew John and Ryan Damien; mother, Catherine McHale; and brother, James McHale.