Philadelphia Fire Department celebrates local legacies

Deputy Chief Willie Williams and firefighter Michelle Towns were honored at the Fireman's Hall Museum on Thursday.
PHOTO: Melissa Mitman

It was quite the family affair.

On Thursday morning, members of the Philadelphia Fire Department and their families celebrated several father-daughter duos as part of Black History Month. Each pair was recognized for their service to the City of Philadelphia and also donated a personal piece of memorabilia to the Fireman’s Hall Museum.

“To see the impact that these folks have made and are continuing to make on our great city is truly inspiring,” said Fire Commissioner Adam K. Thiel. “What I’m really looking forward to is in some number of years, hopefully not too far away, in addition to the father and daughter legacies that we’re honoring today, we’ll be honoring mother and daughter legacies in the Philadelphia Fire Department, and many of them.”

Firefighter Ed Rockemore and Assistant Deputy Commissioner Crystal Yates are the first-ever African-American father and daughter to serve the Philadelphia Fire Department at the same time. They donated personal plaques to the museum.

Firefighters Marcellus and Lisa Hatcher were also recognized. Marcellus joined the PFD in 1977 and was one of the first firefighters who passed from Hepatitis C in the department. He died in 1998. His daughter, Lisa, carried on his legacy. She joined the department in 2005 and now works as a paramedic. She donated her late father’s helmet to the museum.

Firefighter and paramedic Richard Lawrence and firefighter Unique Lawrence were also honored, as were Deputy Chief Willie Williams and his daughter, firefighter Michelle Towns. Other honorees include paramedic Lieutenant Lester Gray and firefighter Leslie Turner; firefighter and paramedic Freddie Harps and firefighter Lailah Harps; and firefighters Jeffery and Daynese Stowe.

“It’s an honor for me that my daughter is in the department serving at the same time as me,” said Jeffery. The pair are the first African-American father and daughter to serve together at the rank of firefighter in the history of the department.

“It’s not something we set out to do. We didn’t plan it. We were just following our hearts,” said Daynese. “I tell younger kids today, if you do what you’re passionate about, you’ll be rewarded for it in the end. So, this is a huge reward. I’m grateful. Thank you to my dad for being my inspiration.”

The Black History Month celebration concluded with a video of the honorees, music and heartfelt remarks from Fire Captain Lisa Forrest, who also serves as president of Club Valiants, an organization made up of African-American firefighters, paramedics and emergency medical technicians.

“As February comes to an end, we must remember that we are not confined to one month of black history,” Forrest said. “We should celebrate our history at all times. We stand on some tall shoulders and broke down some big barriers. A foundation has been laid, and we must continue to build.

“How fitting is it to have a program on African-American fathers and daughters as we close our Black History Month and enter Women’s (History) Month,” she added. “Throughout history, girls have been discussed in terms of what they couldn’t or should do. But we saw today, it is as much her-story as history. And it is ok for daughters to travel in the paths of their fathers.”

Firefighter Ed Rockemore and Assistant Deputy Commissioner Crystal Yates are the first-ever African-American father and daughter to serve the Philadelphia Fire Department at the same time. PHOTO: MELISSA MITMAN
Firefighter Ed Rockemore and Assistant Deputy Commissioner Crystal Yates donated personal plaques to the Firefighter’s Hall Museum. PHOTO: MELISSA MITMAN
Firefighter Jeffery Stowe. PHOTO: MELISSA MITMAN
Fire Captain Lisa Forrest also serves as president of Club Valiants, an organization made up of African-American firefighters, paramedics and emergency medical technicians. PHOTO: MELISSA MITMAN
In celebration of Black History Month, the Philadelphia Fire Department recognized African-American fathers and daughters for their service. PHOTO: MELISSA MITMAN

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