Sick New York Boy Dies as Honorary Firefighter

Updated: 12-07-2007 04:21:10 PM

Courtesy of The Albany Times Union

COHOES, N.Y.-- William McKay will get a fireman's funeral. The 7-year-old Cohoes boy died early Thursday from cancer, just days after local fire companies granted the boy's last wish to become a firefighter.

William mouthed the words "I love you" before he slipped into unconsciousness. Family members and fire department badges surrounded him when he died at 3:12 a.m. in St. Peter's Hospital's hospice care unit.

"His only concern was that his mommy and sister were fine. He didn't care about himself," said William's aunt, Adorna Bussey. "He was so brave. You never met a child like that in your life."

William's cancer, retinoblastoma, had spread from his eye throughout his body.

The Cohoes boy brought members of the Colonie Fire Department to tears on Saturday when they inducted him as an honorary firefighter. Frail from sickness, William still managed to raise his hand and salute the firefighters.

The Make-A-Wish Foundation helped make William's dream of becoming a fireman come true.

"That's what makes us do the things we do," said Colonie Fire Co. Chief Mike Powers. "Whether it's the scene of a fire or a tragedy or something like this. This is what we are all about.

"We are living his dream and to make him part of that, it was great for us."

William will be buried on Monday, with firefighters in dress uniform there to salute him.

Over the weekend, the boy's room was filled with family, friends and fire crews to celebrate his life. Firefighters from Troy, Albany, Slingerlands, Cohoes and Latham visited in full gear. William's favorite Disney characters -- Shrek, Puss, Fiona and Cinderella -- also made appearances.

William repeatedly told his family, "This is the best day in my life."

Nobody told William he was dying. But he knew, said his aunt.

"He was saying goodbye to us in so many different ways," she said.

He whispered to his mother, Marion Bussey, "We'll never be without each other. I'll always be with you," and a favorite phrase for the family, "Our love is bigger than the astrobelt and nothing can break it."

He died peacefully, said his father, William McKay.

William's mother is a program manager at Rensselaer ARC and his father is a truck driver who lives in New York City. William also leaves his sister Be-Asia, 9, brother Cazerny Bussey, 19, and half-sister Andrea McKay, 20.

His father commended the hospice workers at St. Peter's.

"They really helped us get through this," he said. "I can't express the gratitude I have for them." Woodruff contributed to this report. Cathleen F. Crowley can be reached at 454-5348, or by e-mail at

Memorial services

Calling hours for William McKay will be from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday, with the funeral at 1 p.m. at the John Clinton Funeral Home, Washington Park and Third Street, Troy.

Schenectady resident Pauline D'Alessio set up a fund in William's name to help pay his family's medical, funeral and household bills. Donations can be made at Pioneer Savings Bank's Capital Region branches or by mail: William Bussey McKay Honorary Firefighter Fund, 488 Broadway, Albany, NY 12207.

Republished with permission of The Albany Times Union.