Thousands of mourners filled a Queens church — and lined the streets outside — Friday to remember Timothy Klein, the 31-year-old FDNY veteran from a family of firefighters who died in a ceiling collapse while battling a house blaze this week.
Klein died in the line of duty Sunday when the second-floor ceiling of the Brooklyn house collapsed. He was the second FDNY member from Ladder Company 170 killed in the line of duty in just over three years.
Klein served the department for more than six years, following in the footsteps of his father and several other relatives who chose to fight fires. His father was a New York City firefighter for 29 years, and his grandfather was a police officer.
His funeral was held at the Church of St. Francis DeSales, a Roman Catholic parish in Belle Harbor. Klein's mother, Dee Dee, followed Mayor Eric Adams, Acting FDNY Commissioner Laura Kavanaugh, and Firefighter Vincent Geary in eulogizing the 31-year-old.
"I'm gonna try my best to do Timmy proud as I know he's telling me, 'Mom, if I can do it, I know you can too.' As Timmy did the same for his fellow firefighter and friend Steve Pollard," his mother said.
"As Tim's parents, he was our sunny boy and always will be. We both had our unique relationship and special bond with him. He liked to talk to with his dad about the Yankees, Rangers, skiing and even fishing. But most of all they enjoyed talking about every aspect of his firehouse life, from who he worked with that knew his dad to details about jobs he would have on the rig that day."
Klein was remembered as a selfless hero and fun-loving prankster who overcame childhood health obstacles to follow his father into the department, earning the nickname “golden child” at his firehouse because he seemingly did no wrong, mourners said. He volunteered in his off hours by building ramps for disabled members of the fire community and giving retired firefighters rides to the hospital, friends and family recalled.
Klein was the life of the party, often dragging his boombox and a cooler full of beer to the beach with friends on sunny days, and pulling practical jokes on his friends and fellow firefighters.
“He died doing what he loved,” firefighter Vincent Geary said in a eulogy. “Being a fireman was his true purpose in life. A hero always putting others before himself. Tim was everything you ever wanted in a son, brother, partner, firefighter or friend."
Rather than getting razzed, as rookies often do, Klein was getting thanked, Geary recalled, leading to his “golden child” moniker.
Klein was diagnosed with a rare form of anemia when he was 9 months old and, before he turned 3, had surgery to remove his spleen, his mother said of her first-born and only son. His illness delayed his growth, but he didn't let that stop him from playing every sport he could — even when teammates and opponents were towering over him — or achieving his dream of being a firefighter, his mother said.
"He wanted to play every sport — we don't think he was very good at any one thing, but he was darn good at everything," she said to laughs from those at the church. "Our hearts will be broke forever, but we know that Tim would want us to continue to quietly pay it forward, just as he always managed to do."
“It’s clear that Tim was born to be a hero,” Mayor Adams said.
Kavanagh said Klein “truly epitomized what it means to be a New York City firefighter" and was the kind of person we should all aspire to be, “kind, selfless and always, always there to help."
In 2019, Klein spoke at Pollard's funeral -- the two were assigned to the same company in Canarsie. At Friday's service, Geary, also of Ladder Company 170, took to the podium where he spoke of Klein's lasting impact as a model and mentor in the firehouse.
"When it came to being a fireman, Timmy was the prime example of everything a firefighter should be. He's physically fit, smart, great communicator, dedicated, team player, problem solver, patient, and so much more," Geary said.
Just days before his death, Klein was collecting donations for a fishing tournament in Pollard's memory, an event to raise money to help cover the costs of more ramps for retired firefighters, children of firefighters and others within their community who need help getting around.
For all of Klein's humble good deeds, his friends and colleagues came to know a mischievous side — “the ultimate prankster hiding in plain sight" who could turn quiet moments at the firehouse or out on the town into uproarious gags, Geary said.
Geary remembered one prank in which Klein sneaked a bouillon cube into a firefighter’s cup, turning his coffee into soup. Another time, Klein told his friends that instead of a cover charge, a local bar was collecting cans for a holiday food drive.
They all showed up with donations, only to find a bouncer puzzled by their altruism and Klein laughing that he'd once again pulled one over on them.
Thursday was the start of the long and painful goodbye in Brooklyn for the firefighter, as crowds spilled out the door and around the block from a Marine Park funeral home to remember Klein at his wake. It was a sea of support for the Breezy Point-raised man who lived up to the title of New York's Bravest.
Fellow firefighters and others gathered and showed up late into the night Thursday, some sharing hugs as they honored their fallen brother.
"Everything you hear about Tim Klein is, he was the best firefighter, the best son, the best brother, the kind of guy everyone relied on, leaves a hole in our hearts and his family," said Acting FDNY Commissioner Laura Kavanagh.
Members of the FDNY saluted Klein's family as they walked into the funeral home Thursday afternoon. New York City Mayor Eric Adams was among those who paid their respects for a man remembered as a hero.
Friday's funeral came five days after hundreds of FDNY personnel stood shoulder to shoulder outside of Brookdale Hospital as Klein's body was removed from the medical center. The 31-year-old was killed while responding to a house fire in Canarsie on Avenue N shortly before 2 p.m. Sunday.
FDNY officials said he was inside the structure with other firefighters when the structure became too unstable and they were called back to evacuate. Before Klein and the others could make it out, part of the second-floor ceiling collapsed, leaving him trapped.
One other person was killed in the blaze.
Klein was appointed to the FDNY on Dec., 28, 2015, according to the department, and joined Ladder Company 170 in Canarsie after graduating from the Fire Academy.
Klein is survived by his parents and three sisters.
The last firefighter to die in the line of duty was Steven Pollard. The 30-year-old died on Jan. 2019. He was helping victims of a car crash on the Belt Parkway when he fell more than 50 feet off the Mill Basin overpass.
Klein spoke at Pollard's funeral that year. The two were assigned to the same company in Canarsie.
“Tim made an impression on everybody he worked with, junior men who he trained and senior men who he impressed,” Lieutenant Robert Kittelberger of Ladder Company 170 said at Klein’s wake Thursday.
“He was a very big part of our firehouse; he was very dependable at a fire,” Kittelberger said. “This has been heartbreaking for us. We are going to stick together and get through the next couple of days and take care of each other.”