Francis Esposito, 32, firefighter never froze under pressure

'He knew a lot about everything and there was nothing he was less than great at'

Tuesday, October 30, 2001

No task was too great for Francis (Frankie) Esposito, whether it was barging into a burning building or repairing a sinking boat. To put it simply, he knew a lot about everything and never froze under pressure.

On Labor Day, as he and his wife were sailing in New York Harbor, Mr. Esposito sensed something wasn't quite right and calmly assessed the situation.

"He said to me, 'Hold the wheel a minute. We're sinking and I have to fix something,'" said his wife, the former Dawn Ambrosini. "Never for a minute did I worry because Frankie could handle any situation. I always felt safe with him."

So did his colleagues at Engine Co. 235 in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn. It's what made the 32-year-old Tottenville man a great firefighter.

But he also had a passion for his profession, having waited seven long years for his chance to become a New York City firefighter. When he got the call to duty just weeks before his wedding in 1999, Mr. Esposito was already so committed to the job that he postponed his honeymoon.

He began his career with Ladder Co. 79 in West Brighton, but was transferred to Engine Co. 235 in January. Now, Mr. Esposito is among the missing in the World Trade Center catastrophe.

"Everyone looked up to him and he is deeply missed," Mrs. Esposito said. "He left us bravely, proudly and much loved."

Born in Brooklyn, Mr. Esposito considered himself a native of Staten Island. He was brought to Eltingville as an infant and moved to Tottenville shortly after marrying.

As a boy, he worked with his father to build the family's Eltingville home, which became the locale for many Fourth of July celebrations. He and his brothers planned the annual bashes for months beforehand, promising friends and relatives an even better party with each passing year.

There wasn't much the Espositos didn't do together. They were a tight-knit family, as close as they come.

The men constructed another family home in upstate Deposit, where Mr. Esposito would often retreat to go hunting and ride his dirt bike. Mr. Esposito and his father and brothers, all accomplished pool players, also teamed up to win the Staten Island Eight Ball League division championship two years in a row.

Winning shouldn't come as any surprise to anyone who knew Mr. Esposito. Before being called to the Fire Department, he was a drywall finisher with Local 1976 of the Drywall, Tapers & Finishers Union, where he was known as a fastidious worker who never settled for anything less than perfection.

It was one of the qualities that earned him respect among co-workers, admiration from friends and the love of his wife. He was also known for his great sense of humor, especially his one-liners.

A graduate of Tottenville High School, Mr. Esposito had known Mrs. Esposito all his life. The couple dated for nine years before marrying and looked forward to walking through life together.

The couple loved to travel and try new restaurants. They also spent many lazy days of summer at the helm of their boat, "Dawn Marie."

Within one month in 1999, Mr. Esposito achieved three of his lifelong dreams -- marrying the woman he loved, being called to the New York City Fire Department and getting a new Harley Davidson motorcycle.

He kept his Harley in immaculate condition. Friends used to tease Mr. Esposito about how much affection he displayed toward that motorcycle -- always taking the time to wipe fingerprints from the gas tank and spit-shining the chrome.

He was the same way with his house in Tottenville, which he proudly refurbished on his own.

"He knew a lot about everything and there was nothing he was less than great at," Mrs. Esposito said. "He would work for hours on many different projects, sometimes forgetting to eat."

Except when it came to crab. There was never enough crab for Mr. Esposito, who used to catch his own in Raritan Bay. He also enjoyed watching thunderstorms.

Mr. Esposito was a parishioner of Holy Child R.C. Church, Eltingville.

In addition to his wife, Dawn, surviving are his parents, Michael and Dorothy; four brothers, Dominick, Richard, Vincent and Michael, and a sister, Catherine Esposito.

A memorial mass for Mr. Esposito is scheduled for Friday at 1 p.m. in Holy Child Church. The Bedell-Pizzo Funeral Home, Tottenville, is handling the arrangements.

(Advance staff writer Nina-Louise Alsbrook contributed to this tribute.)