Roll of Honor

Michael G. Galay

Michael G. Galay

  • Firefighter
  • Green Knoll Fire Company #1
  • New Jersey
  • Age: 71
  • Year of Death: 2018

Not long after Mike volunteered with Eureka Hose Company in Olyphant, Pennsylvania, the dedication of Mike and friends to training and fundraising revived a weary department and gained a new 1972 Mack engine, painted the deep blue of the American flag, so that, Mike said, everyone could see that Eureka was on the way in. Afterwards, every major success was measured against his satisfaction in delivering The Blue Mack. That attitude extended to such remarkable career feats as rebuilding in Newark, with his team, a Manhattan datacenter less than one week after its destruction on 9/11.

Mike served two terms as Eureka’s chief and was elected Olyphant’s chief in 1979; then, demands of his IT career in Manhattan, marriage, and classes at Fordham limited volunteering to weekends in Olyphant. In New Jersey, responsible for managing datacenters in four states, Mike was finally able to volunteer in 2006 with Bridgewater’s Green Knoll Fire Company, soon becoming top ladder driver and operator, ladder foreman, then secretary and trustee, making significant contributions to specifications, operation and appearance of new apparatus.

Six-time Firefighter of the Year during 12 years with Green Knoll, Mike was highly regarded by surrounding fire departments for his professionalism on and off fire scenes. An ex-chief portrayed him as, “a brave and knowledgeable firefighter…Mike was always so aware of the fireground, he would provide valuable information to the incident commander and act as another set of eyes and ears.” Always a calming influence under stressful conditions, he was a respected mentor to cadets, sharing a wealth of knowledge on all aspects of firefighting.

During the three days of Superstorm Sandy, answering more than 100 calls, Mike’s exceptional skill driving the ladder truck spared the crew from harm from debris, poles, and trees crashing down everywhere, enabling firefighters to continue responding for 72 straight hours. In a high-angle rescue in 2018, Michael situated the ladder truck into a congested construction site and skillfully maneuvered the ladder to enable the rescue of an injured worker from a third-floor platform.

On November 21, 2018, Michael answered three fire calls, helped plan the Black Friday ‘Shake-A-Boot’ fundraiser at the mall, and inspected the newly-arrived ladder truck and engine—happy, satisfied, but fatigued. Early on Thanksgiving morning, Michael suffered a fatal heart attack, concluding more than 50 years of volunteer fire service.

Michael’s quiet, diplomatic demeanor and witty humor earned respect and trust from his colleagues throughout life. Michael is survived by his wife of 37 years, Joan, along with many cousins, lifelong friends and firefighter brothers. His loss has repercussions far beyond what he could have imagined.