In firefighter lingo, one of the highest compliments within the ranks is to say that someone is “a good jake.”
Deputy Chief Charlie Crowley Jr. was certainly a good jake…and then some.
The Chelsea Fire Department and many family members mourned the sudden loss on of Deputy Crowley at a funeral mass last Saturday in St. Rose Church and in a procession down Broadway. Crowley, only 56, was an active duty firefighter when he passed.
Crowley passed away suddenly on June 3rd while off-duty and enjoying the outdoors . He is a fourth-generation Chelsea Firefighter who comes from an old and storied Chelsea family. Like his father and his grandfather before him, the soft-spoken Deputy Crowley was born to be a firefighter – and he proved that numerous time.
Chief Bob Better recalled a freezing cold, snowy night in 1998 when a major fire erupted at 190 Washington Ave. Deputy Crowley was in charge of the crews and when they responded, the fire was already at a flashover point.
He didn’t call for backup or direct things from outside.
Instead, he ran inside looking for anyone who might need to be saved.
“Through all the tremendous heat and smoke, Charlie was able to push forward and found a child wrapped in a blanket on the floor,” said Better. “He then made it to a window where he passed the child to his brother – Lt. Kevin Crowley. The child survived. Saving that child is part of the job, but Charlie was a humble guy and didn’t speak much of it.”
Deputy Crowley won a Medal of Valor from the State Fire Marshal’s Office at the 1999 Firefighters Awards Ceremony.
City Manager Jay Ash released a statement in advance of the ceremony last Saturday – as did several other City Departments, including Police Chief Brian Kyes.
“I had been working with him in his capacity as Deputy Chief and was so impressed with his knowledge, commitment and ability to communicate the needs and actions of the department to those of us who are not in the department,” said Ash. “More so, the high moral character that I had heard he possessed was so evident in our conversations. He served heroically for us while he was on the line, and performed admirably on administrative duties. It’s a shame that someone who saved so many lives couldn’t live longer to enjoy his own life. His sacrifice, and that of his family, is remembered and respected by us all.”
Better described him as the first to run into a burning building and the last to leave a burning building.
He didn’t brag.
He didn’t keep a list of accomplishment.
He just did his job to the fullest.
For that, Better reminded all at the funeral that he was rewarded in 2011-2012 with a rare jump in rank from lieutenant to deputy chief.
“That is a rare occurrence in the Fire Department,” said Better. “He was never a captain. He was probably one of the few that could have made that leap and had the total respect of the department in doing so.”
Crowley came on to the CFD in 1987, was promoted to lieutenant in 1995 and rose to deputy chief in 2011/2012.
He leaves his wife, Cheryl, two stepsons, Mike and Jim Funicella, and a son Charles Crowley – who also followed his father into the firefighting profession.