By JOHN T. WARD
Red Bank firefighters gave a formal sendoff Tuesday to one of their own, a 26-year-old volunteer slain just blocks away from the firehouse where he found his purpose in life, in the words of Mayor Pasquale Menna.
Outside, the fire engine on which he’d answered numerous alarms waited to carry his casket to a cemetery.
Hill was a lieutenant with the Westside Hose Company, the Leighton Avenue firehouse located across the street from one of his boyhood homes. He was also a member of the volunteer First Aid and Rescue Squad and the Sea Bright fire department.
Westside Hose was a place where Hill, starting as child, found both “fraternity” and “a purpose in life,” Mayor Pasquale Menna told mourners gathered in the church.
“One shining day, much to our surprise, he just happened to wander into” the firehouse, said Menna, who also serves as fire department chaplain. There, “in that dimly lit room he found light, and in that light he found his inner strength,” he said.
As a young adult, “he saw that there was a need, and he responded to it,” by joining the department and the first aid squad, Menna said. “And to all that he did, he added his warm, youthful, infectious smile. That was his trademark.”
Hill was fatally stabbed early in the morning of May 27 at the corner of Tilton Avenue and Bank Street in an attack prosecutors allege was motivated by the alleged assailant’s anger over a woman. Demar S. Reevey, 23, also of Red Bank, is in custody, charged with homicide.
Outside the church, a fellow firefighter struggled to comprehend the reason for Hill’s death.
“People talk about someone being ‘kind,'” said Acting Fire Marshal Tommy Welsh, whose late father, Jack, was in the firehouse when Hill first wandered in as a child. “This kid was so kind. That’s what makes this a hard pill to take.”
After a funeral service for family and friends, Engine 96 carried Hill’s casket to Monmouth Memorial Park in Tinton Falls for interment. En route, the funeral cortege, including a dozen fire trucks from across the Greater Red Bank Green, passed the Westside Hose firehouse, where Hill’s turnout gear was on display.
As the procession passed, pipes and drums from around the state, led by borough fireman Frank Woods, played “Going Home.”