Leon Smith Jr. "Express"
Occupation:Fire Department of New York | Firefighter, Ladder 118Dedicated Memorial Sites:Reflections:The New York Times Portraits of Grief
FF Leon W. Smith Foundation
FDNY Memorial Day BookBiography:
Leon Smith Jr., was born July 14, 1953 in Brooklyn, New York to proud parents, Irene and the Late Leon Smith, Sr.
He began his early education in the public school system. He continued on to Borough Hall Academy Junior High School and Queens Day Preparatory High School. He attended Gannon College in Erie, Pennsylvania, where he performed on both the basketball and soccer teams. He later transferred to Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, where he majored in Business Management.
Prior to his being appointed to the F.D.N.Y. on February 27, 1982, Leon had appointments with the N.Y.C.D.O.T. and the N.Y.C. Department of Sanitation. He was also employed as a mental health therapist.
Leon loved helping others and knew by the early age of nine that he would become a fireman. He was often chastised for disappearing from the park, only to be found ‘hanging out’ at the local firehouse near his family’s home. His father urged his mother to just ‘let him be’, stating “At least you know he’s safe there.”
He was always caring and giving, once even giving his winter coat to a classmate who didn’t have one, because he knew he had three.
Leon also loved using his hands. He was mechanically inclined and often built miniature race cars with tiny, working engines. He had the patience of a saint. He grew up to working on real car engines in his spare time and came to be known as the ‘Firehouse Auto Mechanic’. He was also a disc jockey, along with close friend Rick Fowler. The dynamic duo called themselves, “The Slicksters”!
When Leon wasn’t working at the firehouse, he was often showing another of his many talents, by performing in various charity basketball games. He was a proud member of the Vulcan Society, an organization of black firefighters. Recently, Leon performed along with his coworker, Vernon Cherry, who is also among the missing with Ladder 118, and other firefighters, for the benefit of a young lady battling leukemia, through an organization called Songs of Love. As always, Leon was happy to do a good deed. CBS also cast Leon as an extra firefighter in the New York Series ‘Third Watch’.
Leon was a close and loving family man. The New York Daily News featured Leon and his family in a profile titled “The Family That Plays Together” on June 27, 1987.
There have been many stories told of Leon’s heroic efforts over the years. One such story was published by The Brooklyn Heights Press, telling of Leon’s assistance in a purse snatching and how he and three other firefighters chased the thief all the way to the Brooklyn Bridge, where they held him until the police arrived. Acts such as this earned him the nickname “Physical Lee.” His coworkers nicknamed him “Express” because he felt he ‘beloved’ fire truck, whom he referred to fondly as his ‘girlfriend’, should always be among the first to arrive at the scene of a fire.
Leon loved his family dearly and was very close to all. He lost his father, whom he referred to as ‘his hero’ on December 6, 1999. Leon’s mother told him she had lost her right arm. “No you haven’t Momma, I’ll always be here for you.”
Leon leaves behind his mother, Irene Smith, wife, Marilyn, four daughters, Nakia, ‘The Twins’, Tiffany and Yolanda, and Jasmine. One grandson, Mekhi, a mother-in-law, Cathy Owens, two grandmothers, Claudia Smith and Lovie Woolridge, and his close friend, Shelley Haynes, who was a very important part of Leon’s life.
Along with his ‘Brothers’ at Engine 205, Ladder 188, Leon also leaves a host of relatives and friends that miss him dearly.Tributes to Leon Awards & Certificates Articles & Editorials Items of Remembrance Photos: Firefighter Smith Prayer Card Memorial Program & Invitation Photos: From Ground Zero Photos: Firehouse Photos: Memorials Photos: Early Years Photos of Leon Photos: Sports Photos: Family Photos: Friends & Family Photos: Leon's Cars