A Firefighter's Energy, A Father's Patience

February 20, 2002

Timothy Welty was strong enough to lift himself up in a doorway by two fingers, and to raise a heavy maul from the floor on a fully extended arm.

But one of the greatest strengths of this Squad 288 firefighter was the attention he paid to his 4-year-old son, Jake.

"He could listen to his son for three hours, talking about nothing, playing with the little cars," said fellow squad member Louis Rufrano, a friend since the two men started out together as probationary firefighters eight years ago. "As a father, I know firsthand that is really tough."

Welty, 34, whose remains have not been recovered from the World Trade Center, was always a guy who did things his own way, Rufrano said - including his memorial service in November. Instead being eulogized at a church, he was remembered by friends at the Astoria Manor, with jokes and good food and stories about his athleticism and aggressive firefighting. Like the time he was charging up the stairs at a three-alarm fire when the nozzle popped off the firehose he was carrying.

"He just covered it with his hand to spritz the water," recalled Rufrano with a laugh. "He wasn't going to bail out."

Bungee jumping, hockey, mountain climbing, ski racing, parachuting and motorcycling were favorite activities of Welty, who also traveled the world competing with the city fire department volleyball team.

He had just started a construction business on the side and renovated his mother's home in Flushing.

When Welty became a father, all that zest was poured into time with the kids. His wife, Delia, a teacher, often dropped Jake off at the Maspeth firehouse in the morning, and the boy would scamper around the kitchen while the men breakfasted. Welty had already fitted the boy with hockey skates and practiced with him between periods of his own team's competition near his home in Yonkers.

Welty's daughter, Julia, will not remember him; she was just 1 month old when the World Trade Center collapsed. But Jake's mom still brings him down to the park in Westchester where Rufrano now wears a memorial patch for Welty on his shoulder, and skates with the boy between periods.

-- Elizabeth Moore (Newsday)