He Left the Police Force For the Fire Department

December 30, 2001

A plumber arrived at Kevin and RoseEllen Dowdell's Breezy Point home to shut off the outdoor water valve Thursday, she said. Instead, he accidentally shut off the valve that allows water to flow inside their home.

That would have never happened had Kevin Dowdell been home.

"Kevin took care of everything," his wife said. "He helped build this house and did anything that had to be done."

A member of Rescue Co. 4 in Woodside, Lt. Kevin Dowdell, 47, is presumed dead in the terrorist attacks.

Born in Brooklyn, Dowdell's family moved to Colorado while he was still a child, his wife said. Dowdell stayed with a sister in Rockaway and graduated from Far Rockaway High School in 1972. He had worked various jobs in construction, including as a "sand-hog" or tunnel digger, before he got the call to join the New York City Police Department in 1980. A year later, Dowdell got a call from the New York Fire Department. He couldn't pass up the opportunity and left the NYPD.

"He loved the fire department," his wife said. "It was really like a home away from home."

She said her husband's work ethic and other traits of his personality are evident in both of their sons: James, 18, and Patrick, 17. "Patrick really has a lot of Kevin in him. He's very serious, has a level head and really gives it his all in whatever he does. And both my sons really have a positive outlook on life." She said her husband used to take their sons to work, be it to the firehouse or to a construction job. "He would always take them to whatever job he had," his wife said. "Even if it was sweeping. I think they both have that kind of knack and skill in doing things like Kevin."

RoseEllen Dowdell and her husband were together for 26 years, married for 21. She said the terrorist attacks have destroyed her plans for the future: "We had gotten to the point where we did everything together," she said. "And now, my son Patrick is in college, and James is a senior in high school. We were getting to that point where we were going to have all this time together. I miss his everyday presence," she said. "I just miss him."

-- Nick Iyer (Newsday)