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FF's Son Wins Fight to Get Dad's Name on Monument

FF's Son Wins Fight to Get Dad's Name on Monument

Poughkeepsie Journal

February 07, 2011

POUGHKEEPSIE – More than 60 years after his father died of a heart attack after fighting two fires in the City of Poughkeepsie, a former city man has persuaded state authorities to include his dad’s name on a monument honoring firefighters who died in the line of duty.

“I’m just thrilled with the news,” said Jake Miller, who now lives in Syracuse.

Miller said he always believed his father, Tobias Miller, deserved to be honored along with more than 2,000 fallen firefighters whose names are inscribed on the 10-foot-tall monument in Empire State Plaza. The elder Miller died Nov. 14, 1950, after fighting back-to-back blazes in the city earlier in the day.

But last year, Miller’s application, submitted by the Poughkeepsie Exempt Firemen’s Association, was rejected because the state Office of Fire Prevention and Control had amended criteria for inclusion on the monument at a meeting in January 2010. Under that amendment, only firefighters who had died in the past five years were eligible to have their names inscribed on the monument.

Miller and the Exempt Firemen’s group appealed that ruling, then filed a lawsuit in state Supreme Court in June seeking to have the amendment overturned.

Before a judge could rule on the lawsuit, Miller said, the Office of Fire Prevention and Control’s Monument Committee reversed itself and discarded the amendment that set the five-year time limit.

Dennis Michalski, spokesman for the Office of Fire Prevention, confirmed the committee had amended its bylaws.

“Basically, the committee decided deaths going back more than five years could now be considered,” Michalski said.

Miller and Chris Petsas, president of the Exempt Firemen’s Association, said they had been assured that Tobias Miller’s name and the name of another Poughkeepsie firefighter, Cornelius Fogg, who died fighting a fire in 1928, would be approved in April, in time for inclusion on the monument at its annual ceremony in October.

Petsas said he was grateful — and a little surprised — the state panel had changed its mind. (2 of 2)

“It’s the power of the people. It shows that no matter how dysfunctional Albany can be, if people come together and fight for a cause that’s right, you can have a good outcome,” he said.

Miller credited state Fire Administrator Floyd Madison with helping to persuade the Monument Committee to change its ruling.

“He was at the hearing when we appealed the decision. I asked him point-blank, ‘Do you think this was a good ruling?’ and he said no,” Miller said.

Miller said he had brought copies of newspaper articles about the case published by the Poughkeepsie Journal and Syracuse Post-Standard to the hearing.

“I really think the publicity about this helped our case,” he said.

Poughkeepsie attorney William Frame, who filed the lawsuit on Miller’s behalf, said he believed the state agency had bowed to “pressure from several fronts,” including an article in the Poughkeepsie Journal and other publicity the case generated.

“It’s a just decision,” Frame said. “It was wrong to put a time limit on which firefighters could be honored.”

“It’s the power of the people. It shows that no matter how dysfunctional Albany can be, if people come together and fight for a cause that’s right, you can have a good outcome,” he said.

Miller credited state Fire Administrator Floyd Madison with helping to persuade the Monument Committee to change its ruling.

“He was at the hearing when we appealed the decision. I asked him point-blank, ‘Do you think this was a good ruling?’ and he said no,” Miller said.

Miller said he had brought copies of newspaper articles about the case published by the Poughkeepsie Journal and Syracuse Post-Standard to the hearing.

“I really think the publicity about this helped our case,” he said.

Poughkeepsie attorney William Frame, who filed the lawsuit on Miller’s behalf, said he believed the state agency had bowed to “pressure from several fronts,” including an article in the Poughkeepsie Journal and other publicity the case generated.

“It’s a just decision,” Frame said. “It was wrong to put a time limit on which firefighters could be honored.”


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