The Rev. Peter J. McCrann, who became an honorary fire chief of the Bay Shore Fire Department after decades as its chaplain and a firefighter, died Jan. 16. He was 84.
McCrann joined the Bay Shore Fire Department in 1973, simultaneously becoming the department chaplain and an active member of the Bay Shore Hose Company.
“He would always get his hands dirty,” Bay Shore Fire Chief Edward Kunz said.
With his own fire gear that said “Father Pete” on the back, McCrann helped push the fire hose into burning structures to douse flames, Kunz said.
As McCrann got older and unable to fight fires, “you’d always find him on fire calls” with a tobacco pipe in his mouth, making sure everyone was OK, Kunz said.
He was named an honorary fire chief in 2001 and received a chief’s uniform and badges.
“He’s an irreplaceable person. We put him on a pedestal,” Kunz said. “He’s one of those guys we’ll never be able to replace, never.”
Born in Freeport on April 12, 1932, McCrann grew up in Bay Shore as the oldest of six children, and one of four who became either a priest or a nun.
McCrann knew from a young age he wanted to serve others, becoming an altar boy in the fourth grade and entering the Montfort Prep Seminary in Bay Shore at age 14, his sister Margaret Carroll said.
“He loved people, and he loved to serve,” Carroll said. “And he saw God in everyone.”
At age 17, McCrann contracted polio while working at a Boy Scouts camp.
“He was concerned he wouldn’t be able to stay in the seminary, but he was able to overcome the polio,” Carroll said, noting the disease left McCrann with a significant limp and one leg thinner than the other.
He was ordained a priest on Dec. 20, 1958, and worked in St. Louis before returning to Bay Shore for eight years as Superior of Montfort Missionaries.
Even after he moved to Litchfield, Connecticut, in the 1980s to serve as Superior of Montfort Missionaries there, McCrann would come back to Bay Shore every month to attend fire department meetings, events, weddings and funerals, Kunz said.
He again returned to Bay Shore in 1992, becoming chaplain at Southside Hospital. He retired in 2014 due to health problems, his family said.
McCrann also spent at least 20 years as chaplain to the Bay Shore chapter of the Knights of Columbus, Grand Master Sal Cataldo said.
“He was the unofficial pastor of Bay Shore for the last three decades,” said Msgr. Tom Cuggan of St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church in Bay Shore.
Friends and family described McCrann as a loving, opinionated person who did not mince words.
“He had a lot of wisdom. He told you the way it was,” Cataldo said. “He didn’t hold back anything.”
McCrann died at the Maria Regina Residence in Brentwood.
Preceded in death by his parents and his brother, John McCrann, he is survived by siblings Mary McCrann of South Setauket; Catherine Kelly of Coronado, California; James McCrann of Hicksville; and Margaret Carroll of San Diego.
The fire department gave him honors and saluted his casket at his funeral, which was held at St Patrick’s Church in Bay Shore on Tuesday, Kunz said. A wake was held at the firehouse the day before.
McCrann was buried in St. Patrick’s Cemetery alongside fire department memorabilia and a piece of bread and a napkin he had used as a young boy pretending to give communion, Carroll said.