Gov. Pataki saluted the families of all police and firefighters Thursday evening as awards were presented for heroism during the past year.
"Behind every courageous cop and firefighter is a spouse and family of equal courage," Pataki told more than 200 people at the 100 Club's 35th annual Heroes Award Dinner in the Park Country Club in Williamsville.
"You are proof of that," he went on. "Throughout their careers, you endured the long nights of uncertainty. Every step of the way you supported and loved them. And as difficult as it is, you are here this evening."
The governor, whose father was a volunteer fireman, also thanked the 100 Club, which has raised more than $400,000 to assist families of fallen heroes and has funded 90 education grants for injured police officers and firefighters.
But Pataki saved his highest accolades for the men and women on public safety's front lines.
"There's no greater sacrifice than the one police and firefighters are asked to make every day -- to risk your lives for ours," he said. "You've ignored the threat of raging fires, toxic fumes, deadly rapids and violent criminals to help total strangers. Despite the very real potential threat of injury -- or even death -- you rushed into harm's way to aid your fellow man."
Heroes Awards were presented to:
Capt. Kevin R. Caffery and Det. Chester J. Krupczyk Jr. of the Erie County Sheriff's Department, for their rescue of a suicidal man from a tiny island near the brink of the Horseshoe Falls last June 2. Caffery landed a helicopter on rocks on the island, and Krupczyk exited the helicopter and pulled the Canadian man aboard.
Capt. Donald Stoecki of the Buffalo Fire Department Rescue Unit and Firefighter Joseph Pietromicca from Engine 3, for rescuing a woman trapped in a burning house last April 23. They saved precious moments by not waiting to go inside with a water hose, and they suffered burns but saved the Towne Gardens woman.
Rocco J. Casullo, owner of Casullo's Automotive Service in Kenmore. Casullo, a former firefighter, heard on his fire radio on May 5 that a firefighter was trapped under a fallen wall in a fire at the Caton-Hendler Paint Co., down the street at 2429 Elmwood Ave. He rushed into the burning store in his street clothes and helped free volunteer firefighter Timothy Goff, 27, who later died of his injuries.
Gary J. Felong chased a rape suspect down a city street after hearing a woman scream that she had been raped. When police arrived, he was able to identify the man, which led to his arrest.
The dinner also paid tribute to Goff and two others who died in the line of duty this year: Officer Charles E. McDougald, who was shot to death by a suspect on Northampton Street on April 9, and Buffalo Firefighter Michael Seguin, who died July 4 as he was carrying a hose to the attic of a burning house on Kehr Street. Members of their families also attended the affair.
The governor also recognized that it was the 78th birthday of retired Supreme Court Justice Frederick M. Marshall, who served twice as president of the 100 Club. A special award was given to retiring Erie County Sheriff Thomas F. Higgins.
Pataki reminded his listeners of his Aug. 21 announcement that a memorial will be built in the Empire State Plaza in Albany to honor firefighters who die in the line of duty in New York State.
On another historical note, the governor today will sign a bill to establish the Freedom Trail Commission, which will preserve New York State's role in the Underground Railroad, the network that led fugitive slaves from the South to freedom in Canada. The bill was sponsored by Deputy Assembly Speaker Arthur O. Eve, D-Buffalo, and Sen. Dale Volker, R-Depew.