Joseph Toscano, the Watertown Firefighter who lost his life in the line of duty on March 17, was a humble man who would never boast about his talents and accomplishments, but those who remembered “Joey T.” during his funeral service Wednesday morning remembered him as a great firefighter, an amazing father and as a multi-talented Renaissance man.
The outpouring of love and support from friends, family and others has been very comforting to Toscano’s family, said his oldest daughter Alyssa during the funeral at St. Patrick’s Church in Watertown.
Thousands of firefighters from around the Massachusetts and beyond lined Main Street to watch Toscano’s funeral procession arrive at the church.
Last Friday started as a typical morning, as Toscano said goodbye to his family on his way to work, but a few hours later phone calls from the Watertown Fire Department reported a life-changing tragedy.
“I feared that this day would come as a little girl, but I never thought it would become a reality,” Alyssa said. “I am now living my worst nightmare.”
Alyssa added, however, that both of her parents prepared her and her siblings – Patrick, Mary Cate, William and Michael – for this tragic scenario by “raising us as strong, independent, confident, loving and caring children.”
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Their mother, Maureen, lost her father when she was young, and Joe lost both his parents by the time he was 12.
“Not having a traditional upbringing made hime who he was as an adult and, most importantly to us, as a dad,” Alyssa said.
She will always remember family trips to some of Toscano’s favorite places: Incarnation Camp in Connecticut, New Hampshire, Lake Michigan, Long Island, Fire Island and Westport.
“He loved anything outdoors and anything with a body of water and wanted to instill that in everyone,” Alyssa said.
Father Ron Coyne, who served as the family’s priest for seven years at St. Mary’s Parish in Randolph, said Toscano was never one to boast, but he was a special person.
“In his eyes he was our average Joe – no desire to stand out or stand apart,” Coyne said. “On the other hand, in our eyes he was not our average Joe. He set the bar high, he went above and beyond. Challenged us to be all that we can be.”
Among his many talents were being a master carpenter – building his family’s home with his own hands – a superb gardener and a legendary cook.
He was most proud of his family, and the Toscanos could always be seen together.
“How blessed we are to see the maroon van to pulling up with its seven occupants – for church, the soccer game, for a birthday party, for a ski trip, for a family outing, or maybe just seeing them going down the street and wondering where the heck they are going,” Coyne said. “They were always in that van and you loved when that door opened an they all poured out.”
Toscano and his wife Maureen also taught his children to give back to the community, and those who don’t have the same opportunities that they had, by volunteering and helping in other wasy.
“You volunteer at Incarnation Camp, you coordinate blood drives, you give time to My Brother’s Keeper, you teach religious education, coach youth sports, you decorate St. Mary’s Church,” Coyne said.
Deputy Chief Bob Quinn, for whom Toscano served as aide for 12 years, said that Toscano loved being a Watertown Firefighter. He was not hired the first time he applied to be on the WFD, Quinn recalled, but he stuck around the area and worked a Home Depot waiting for his opportunity. When the town added a new firefighter position, Quinn was happy he could bring on Toscano.
One of the thing that impressed Quinn about Toscano was the way he overcame the death of both of his parents at an early age. He made graduated high school and made it to SUNY Oswego. When he became deputy chief, Quinn selected Toscano to be his right hand man.
“Joe had knowledge of so many subjects. He was my most trusted resource,” Quinn said. “I was a new deputy fire chief, at that time, and having Joe with me I was able to confide in him and it allowed me to make good decisions. Also having Joe with me provided me with a good dinner every shift.”
Along with being a good cook, Toscano also prided himself in being thrifty, too. At the end of the meal, people would asked how much they owed him, Quinn said, and he would proudly say, “Five dolla’!”
“You will be missed Joey T. You are a fantastic husband, father, son, brother, uncle friend and a good jake. Most of all you will be remembered as being a fantastic human being who brought joy to everyone you met,” Quinn said. “The Watertown Fire Department and the entire community of Watertown will never forget you. We will hold you as an example we should live our own lives with valor and courage but with also compassion sacrifice and love. I will miss you my good friend. May you rest in peace.”
At the end of the service, the Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts presented Maureen and Toscano’s five children with the Line of Duty Death Medal. Then the Watertown Fire Department rang a fire bell with three sets five rings to mark Toscano’s Last Alarm.