In an already trying era of the Great Depression, Daniel T. Murphy endured great tragedy, losing both parents to meningitis and a sister in a traffic accident during his early childhood.

Despite those losses by the time he was a young teen, Murphy persevered and went on to serve in the Navy in World War II, then becoming a New York City firefighter and rising to the Deputy Chief of Department.

Murphy, of Copiague, died Sunday at the age of 85 after a long illness.

Born in Brooklyn on April 11, 1925, he lived in a close-knit Irish neighborhood with two brothers and five sisters. When Murphy was six, his younger sister was hit by a truck, and when he was nine, both parents were struck with meningitis and died soon after. "After they both died, it was as if he had to be born again," said son Michael Murphy, 50, of Massapequa Park, who is also in the FDNY, of his father's drive to achieve in later years.

Straight after graduation from Erasmus Hall High School in 1943, Murphy enlisted in the Navy, becoming a nose gunner in a B-24 Liberator over the South Pacific. In his two years of service, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Navy Air Medal.

When the war ended, Murphy returned to Long Island, briefly becoming a New York City police officer. He left after a year, seeking more excitement, family said. He entered the FDNY in 1947, and quickly rose up its rank. He became the Deputy Chief of Department in 1966, in charge of the 3rd Division in midtown Manhattan.

"He was the go-to guy, and an excellent teacher," said Larry Sloane, 76, of Commack, a longtime friend and a FDNY firefighter for 37 years who worked under Murphy from 1976-1985. "After each fire, he would discuss what we did well and what we could improve. He was such a great boss, I can't say enough about him."

"All the firemen loved him," said Danny Brash, 81, of Massapequa, a FDNY firefighter for 31 years who worked with Murphy from 1979-1985. "He was the type of man who'd help anyone who needed it. When one firefighter said his wife was in the hospital and he was struggling to foot the bill, Dan wrote him a $1,000 check right then and there. That's just the type of guy he was."

After meeting Margaret McCarthy, of South Bronx, during a trip to Coney Island, the two married in 1953. They set up home in Massapequa, where all six of their children were raised. McCarthy passed away in 1985.

His children remember a father who put family first. "He had an over-the-top pride in his children," said Michael.

After his retirement in 1987, Murphy kept very active. "He rode his bike on the Jones Beach bike path, all the way into his early eighties," said son John Murphy, 49, of Massapequa, the second of three of Murphy's sons in the FDNY. Murphy was also an active member of the VFW and the American Legion.

He is also survived by sons Daniel, of Tennessee, Matthew, of South Carolina, and Patrick, of Babylon; daughter Brenda DiDonato, of Massapequa; 14 grandchildren, three great-grandchildren, and a sister, Rita Weaver, of Minnesota.

A wake was held Tuesday and Wednesday. A funeral Mass is 10 a.m. Thursday at St. Rose of Lima Church in Massapequa, with the interment to follow at Calverton National Cemetery in Calverton.

Latest Videos