Robert Tilearcio Sr. (“Skippy”) always dreamed about being a fireman. He wore many hats and wore them all proudly, but he had that fire in his belly about being a fireman. He would eat sleep and breathe all things firehouse related. He was the commissar for many years and loved helping out. He loved to cook for everyone. And he was always looking for that next best recipe. He was quick to do a mutual or change vacation and always fundraised. Almost every day, someone rang that bell in his firehouse looking for that infectious smile or burst of laughter. They knew it was the best medicine for what ailed them.
Robert loved life, and life loved him. He often showed his talents on the comedy stage. His last time on stage was thirteen minutes after the stagehand was trying to get him off after seven minutes. But they knew it would be his last, so they let him continue. We almost didn’t make it; we rushed him there after a very high dose of chemotherapy from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. After that, he lost his ability to speak.
He gave the fight of his life to be around for all of us. He took many bus trips to lobby Congress on behalf of reauthorizing the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act for his fellow firemen before he knew he would one day need it himself. He was recognized at the AFL convention in 2016 for his tireless efforts on behalf of the responders, survivors, and victims of 9/11. We will never forget! On 9/11/2001, Robert raced from his firehouse to the towers searching for his fellow firemen and civilians. Our lives were forever changed. Robert was also recognized on FDNY Medal Day and many times in his community.
This past year my son carried on his legacy as an NYC firefighter with his badge number. I couldn’t be prouder.