New York Times Portraits of Grief
Fred Ill Jr. was a skinny kid from the Bronx, and he made up for it by being better than you.
A captain in the New York Fire Department, he gained fame two years ago for saving the life of a man who was pushed onto the subway tracks. The duty of a firefighter ends right about there, but simple lifesaving was not enough for Captain Ill. He later stayed nearby as the man learned to walk on artificial legs, and he helped to find scholarships for the man's children.
He put in extra effort as a father of three, a baseball and basketball coach, a reservist in the Army Corps of Engineers and, of course, a firehouse leader.
"Everything he did, he did it over the top," said Chris Flatley, a firefighter at Ladder Company 2 in Manhattan. The men there, on East 51st Street, say that Captain Ill, 49, was the first captain to dedicate himself to the house, which officers are wont to treat as a stressful, temporary steppingstone.
The firefighters could not resist occasionally pulling pranks on such a man. Once they watched as Captain Ill called in a report of a suspicious package, though they knew he was looking at a newly installed sculpture.