The Melville Fire Department recently mourned the loss of ex-Captain Robert Earley Sr., 88, a dedicated and well-respected member of the department for 53 years who passed away on Jan. 29, 2016.
In June 1932, when Earley was 4 years old, his father, William, retired from the New York Police Department. The family moved to Montague, New Jersey, where Earley started school in 1933 at a one-room schoolhouse that contained eight classes all taught by one teacher. In 1937, the family returned to Brooklyn where Earley attended St. Francis of Assisi Elementary School.
He soon moved on to James Madison High School, but left school despite his family’s wishes to join the U.S. Merchant Marines, where he served on different ships until 1950. During this time his cousin asked him to be his best man at his wedding, where he met Terry Troy who was the maid of honor. The rest was inevitable. Earley and Terry married in 1951 and moved to Melville in 1954, where they bought a home on Bainbridge Avenue.
The couple had two sons, William and Robert Jr. He was predeceased by both his wife and son, Robert Jr.
Earley was an eight o’clock usher at St. Elizabeth Catholic Church for many years, and was active in the Boy Scouts of America as an assistant scoutmaster. He was “Irishman of the Year” in 2007 and was an aide to the grand marshal of the New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade that year. He was instrumental in saving St. Bridget’s, the first church built by the Irish and raised over $20 million dollars.
Earley joined the Melville Fire Department in September 1962 and remained an active member for 53 years. He actively responded to 500 alarms per year and was honored many times as “Company Member of the Year.” In 2001 he was honored as the “Department Member of the Year.”
Earley wore many hats in the fire service. He was the Melville Rescue Squad Captain from 1966-1967, and was one of the squad’s first cardiac emergency technicians. He was the senior fire inspector for the Melville Fire District from 1969-1981. Then in 1982, Earley became the chief fire inspector for the Town of Huntington until he retired in 1990. Earley also served as Melville fire police lieutenant and captain from 1994-2012. Earley’s background and knowledge in the fire service was comprehensive and well known throughout the state of New York, and surrounding areas.