Michael J. Dolan III of Baldwin was a beloved spectacle with his goofy moves on the dance floor during family events and he relished the role as the resident party pro — always looking forward to the next reunion, birthday and wedding, relatives said.
He felt that same enthusiasm for his extended family at the Baldwin Fire Department, where he had volunteered since September 2011 and was a well-liked member of Hose Company 4.
“I think he just was a person that always wanted to be helping people,” said Bobbi Dolan, his mother. “He wanted to be someone that anyone could rely on.”
An engineer by trade who dabbled in the theater arts and used both talents to help the people he loved, Dolan died at home Thursday of stage 4 lung cancer. He was 29.
After Dolan was diagnosed in 2017, he said he was disappointed that he was less able to help others.
“It sounds corny, but you want to help your community and give back,” Dolan said during an interview with Newsday in October 2017 as friends and firefighters launched a fundraiser for him. “It keeps life from getting boring.”
Firefighters lowered flags to half-staff and hung funeral bunting in his honor Thursday.
"He was a good all-around guy, always willing to help others more than himself," said Chief Peter Ortiz, who was a year ahead of Dolan during their days together at Baldwin High School. "It's a tragedy."
A lifelong Baldwin resident, Dolan attended local schools, first Brookside Elementary School, then Baldwin middle and high schools. He went on to Stony Brook University, where he earned a degree in engineering science even as he took courses in the theater arts.
Dolan worked as a design engineer for Plainview-based Core SWX, which makes commercial camera equipment and batteries.
It didn’t surprise his sister, Jillian, that he became an engineer because he learned a lot about how things work by tinkering with her toys.
“He was always taking stuff apart,” Jillian Dolan said. “He would take apart computers. He would take apart my toys.”
He was interested in the mechanics of trains, cars and electronics, his mother said. He dazzled both family and firefighters with his 3D printer.
Indeed, Dolan was called Mad Mike by friends who knew he was crazy about science.
At Baldwin High, Dolan joined the robotics club and Stage Crew. He invented “weird stuff,” too, Jillian Dolan said, including a robotic bartender and sundry gadgets equipped with LED lighting.
But he is perhaps best known for his commitment to family, friends and even people he didn’t know.
“When he was sick, he never wanted people to worry about him,” Bobbi Dolan said. “He always wanted to make sure that he was always protecting his friends and stuff. He had lots of friends and he would stop on the side of the road and help a perfect stranger if he could. He just liked helping people.”
Besides his mother and sister, Dolan is survived by his father, Michael Dolan, his grandparents and many cousins.
Visitation will be at Donza Funeral Home, at 333 Atlantic Ave. in East Rockaway, from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. Sunday. A Baldwin Fire Department service will take place at the funeral home starting at 8 p.m.
There will be a private cremation.
In lieu of flowers, the Dolan family requested donations be made to charities in Michael Dolan’s name.