Robert McMahon: Great Do-It-Yourselfer

When he wasn't busy battling flames, Robert McMahon, 35, whom everyone called Bobby, liked to make things. He built a haunted house for children with cancer. He painted landscapes and loved photography. He could turn mute lumber into furniture of distinction.

Over at the Gate, a bar in Park Slope, Brooklyn, there is a set of benches that he created for a friend, "beautiful, churchlike benches," said Julie McMahon, his wife and the mother of their two sons, Matthew, 2, and Patrick, 4 months old. Together they bought the house in Queens that he grew up in, and he pulled it apart and created a vastly improved version. "And he had never done that before," Mrs. McMahon said.

At his firehouse, Ladder Company 20 on Lafayette Street, he was the one who set up the Christmas tree every year, stringing it with lights. He was a good cook, too, which meant clean plates and gratitude all around. He could put together a company-size pan of lasagna so impressive that somebody once slipped the recipe to GQ.

"I used to call him MacGyver," said his friend Mike Hopkins, who worked with him for eight years, "because he pretty much could do anything. If he didn't know how to do something, he would do it anyway, and he would do it really well."