Wrestling Champ,Heroic Firefighter

September 26, 2001

Mark Whitford was a three-time city wrestling champion, but his best firefighting save had less to do with brawn and more to do with* quick thinking and compassion.

One night as he sat on duty in a fire truck, a couple approached him. The wife was in labor and they could not reach the hospital in time. He adapted his basic EMT training to deliver the baby in the couple's car, his brother, Dennis, said.

Whitford, 31, was a firefighter for three years with Engine Co. 23 in midtown Manhattan. He has been missing since responding to the World Trade Center attack.

Born and raised in Staten Island, Whitford graduated from Tottenville High School in 1989. From 1987 to 1989, he was the PSAL wrestling champion in his weight class. At Seton Hall University, where he graduated in 1993, he was the eastern regional wrestling champion in 1992 and 1993, and a two-time NCAA qualifier.

In high school, when Mark was a sophomore and Dennis a freshman in 1987, Dennis was also PSAL wrestling champion in a different weight class. "We were almost like twins together," said Dennis Whitford, of Sayville, N.J.

With his wife, Renee, Mark Whitford had twins of his own -13-month-old Matthew and Timothy. A year ago, the family moved from Staten Island to Washingtonville.

Another brother, Chris, of Rock Tavern, is a policeman with the First Precinct assisting in the rescue operation. Mark Whitford is also survived by a sister, Lisa Walker of Oldbridge, N.J., and his parents, Roger and Carol, of Staten Island.

-Kathryn Wellin (Newsday)