By Paula Katinas
BELLE HARBOR — Firefighter Timothy Klein’s FDNY buddies will readily tell you that he loved nothing more than helping people in need.
A talented carpenter, Klein was an active member of The Fight for Firefighters Foundation, a group specializing in constructing ramps at homes of first responders to give their wheelchair-bound relatives easier mobility.
Klein, 31, who was assigned to Ladder 170 in Canarsie, died while battling a fire in that community in April. His friends in the foundation, who are mostly FDNY members, are still grieving the loss of their colleague and pal.
But on June 21, they put their grief aside to get back to the task of building ramps — seeing it as a way of carrying on his legacy.
So, bright and early Tuesday morning, they were at a house on Beach 140th Street in Belle Harbor constructing a ramp for 79-year-old Paula Antonio, a stroke victim who was left paralyzed on her left side. She is still recovering in a nursing home and is expected to return home in early July.
“We’re doing this for Timmy. This is our first build since he died,” Foundation President John Vaeth said.
It was a large crew, numbering about 20 foundation members. Wearing bright orange T-shirts with the group’s name, they worked in teams — some measuring and cutting wood for the foundation that would hold the ramp in place, while others carefully put together the sections of the metal ramp itself.
The ramp project was also dedicated to the memory of another deceased FDNY member — Firefighter Steven Pollard, 31, a fellow member of Ladder 170 who died in 2019 when he fell from the Mill Basin Bridge while responding to a two-car crash.
Klein delivered the eulogy at Pollard’s funeral, calling his friend “a kind, respectful and dedicated fireman” and “a quiet person who never uttered any ill words towards anyone.”
Once the ramp was completed Tuesday, the foundation planned to present a plaque bearing the names of Klein and Pollard to the Antonio Family.
Klein was totally dedicated to The Fight for Firefighters Foundation, as well as a board member, Vaeth said.
“If Timmy was here with us, he’d be getting right to work, sawing wood, drilling, lifting stuff,” he explained. “He helped a lot with the builds and he helped a real lot before the builds — talking to people and getting money for all this stuff. It was so much work. It was unbelievable.”
Klein’s father, retired FDNY Firefighter Patrick Klein, was there to lend a hand. “It carries on with what he really had a passion for — which was helping people,” he said. “This is something that he got into when he was early on the job and each year, he got more and more involved.
He didn’t even tell us (his family) half the things he was doing. We found out later all the things he was involved in,” Patrick Klein added.
The foundation found out about Paula Antonio through a friend in the neighborhood and offered to build the ramp for her. There is an FDNY connection: her grandson, Patrick Lonie, is an Emergency Medical Technician.
Her son E.J. Antonio watched as the work progressed. “These guys are wonderful, and pretty efficient. They showed up, I showed them where the power outlets were and they got right to work,” he said.
The ramp will mean a great deal, he added. “This is my mom’s house. Unfortunately, she’s had other complications with the stroke and she requires 24-hour care. So we’re going to bring her home to a very comfortable place that she lives in so she can sit on the porch and enjoy life.”
Now that the foundation is back to constructing ramps, the plan is to continue, Vaeth said. “We’re going to be doing at least one build each month,” he explained.
For information on how to donate to The Fight For Firefighters Foundation, vist the group’s website: https://www.fightforfirefightersfoundation.com/home and click the Donate button.