Battalion Chief Tom Van Doran was born on May 19, 1951. He joined the FDNY in 1979. Prior to that, he had worked almost every job under the sun, but fighting fires was the only one he had ever loved. He would take every opportunity to tell us, “I have the greatest job in the world.” I never once heard him complain about going to work. It wasn’t just his job; it was his entire essence. He was the quintessential fireman. He retired after 29 years on the job. After he tore his rotator cuff, they practically had to drag him out of the firehouse.
He was a pillar in our community, so much so that my sister and I would joke about how long it took us to leave church (He always made it a point to say hi to everyone). We would often call him “The Mayor” when he was on his handshaking sprees. I don’t think there was ever a social gathering where he was not the life of the party. You could always hear Tom Van Doran before you could see him. Not because he was loud (which he certainly was), but because people stopped and listened when he spoke. He was the most dynamic person I’ve ever known.
He was constantly trying new things and reinventing himself. He picked up the saxophone at 50 years old and tried to get his pilot’s license at 60. He was a lifelong learner who never let his curiosity die. He had plans to travel and see the world in his retirement. Unfortunately, he never got the chance to do those things. In 2010, he was diagnosed with stage IV esophageal cancer linked to his participation in the 9/11 recovery efforts. He always assured us by repeating one of his many quotable lines: “Only the good die young, I’ll live forever!” After passing at the age of 61, I guess he wasn’t as bad as he thought.