- Passaic Fire Department
- New Jersey
- Year of Death: 1970
Sam Latona, was a 24 year old rookie firefighter, had gone into a tenement along with several other firefighters to fight the fire toward the rear of building when the entire building collapsed pinning the firefighters into the basement of the building, and he died along with Battalion Chief Joseph Griffin.
Samuel C. Latona was born on September 15, 1945 in Passaic, NJ. He was the son of the late Mr. & Mrs. Joseph and Angela Latona. The Latona family resided at 152 Howe Avenue. He attended Memorial #11 School. He was a parishioner of St. Anthony’s R.C. Church of Passiac, NJ where he played basketball for their CYO team. He then attended Lincoln Junior High School and Passaic High School, where he graduated June 1965. During his time at Passaic High School, Sam was a punter and defensive back for the football team. Til this day, Sam holds the record for the longest punt in Passaic High School history of 96 yards. He was beloved by all of his teammates and friends.
Sam entered the service on March 4, 1966 and served until February 13, 1969. A good portion of his time was spent with an ordnance unit in Vincenza, Italy. A specialist 4th class, Sam was given the National Defense Medal and Honor Guard Medal.
Sam was appointed to the Passaic Fire Department on June 12, 1969 and served March 12, 1970. He was proud to serve his city and community, making sure the lives of all were protected.
Sam was engaged to the late Kathleen Cullen and their wedding was set for Oct 17, 1970.
Sam’s outgoing personality and smile were among his many wonderful characteristics. His love for family, especially his brother Joseph, sister Angela, his father Joseph and mother Angela, was enduring. Although his life was cut too short at the age of 24, the legacy and memory of Sammy lives on with his friends and family forever. He is forever their hero, a hero of the city of Passaic and the Passaic Fire Department. He was promoted posthumously to Lieutenant on March 12, 2020.
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.
Sam was a beautiful cousin of mine. He was a very loving person, kind, a wonderful son, brother and friend. Sam is so missed by all. We all miss and love you.– Donna Tirico Capuano