BC Thomas J. Neary Bronx - Harlem Firefighter Medal

Feb 27, 2015
Somehow this flew under my radar, but in memory of BC Neary, a new medal has been named after him. It was first awarded this year at Medal Day to Captain Jonathan M. Shields, L*42. It certainly seems a fitting tribute to a legend of the job.

Thread 'BC. TOM NEARY; FF L 31 / Lt. L 28' http://nycfire.net/forums/threads/bc-tom-neary-ff-l-31-lt-l-28.78987/
May 6, 2010
New FDNY medal Will Honor Department 'legend' Tom Neary
By THOMAS TRACY | ttracy@nydailynews.com | New York Daily News
PUBLISHED: June 4, 2024 at 4:25 p.m. | UPDATED: June 4, 2024 at 5:14 p.m.

An FDNY “legend” who received the department’s highest honor twice in a stellar career filled with acts of bravery will forever be remembered thanks to a new medal named in his honor.

During the FDNY’s Medal Day ceremony at City Hall on Wednesday, the department will give its first Battalion Chief Thomas J. Neary Bronx-Harlem Firefighter Medal, honoring firefighters who show “distinguished service in the line of duty” while working in Harlem and the Bronx.

“It’s a well-deserved tribute to a legend of the Fire Department,” said retired Chief Fire Marshal Louis Garcia.

Neary, 82, died in St. Pete Beach, Fla., from a heart condition last year.

The retired smoke-eater never talked about his awards. In fact, Neary was so humble that he would have refused such an honor, Garcia said. After he died, several of his retired colleagues, including Herbie Eyser and William O’Mara, created a foundation in his name and paid for the new medal.

“He wouldn’t be bragging about this, I would tell you about it right now,” Garcia said, laughing.

Neary’s widow, Carol Neary, agreed. After he died, relatives found the two Ganci medals and other accolades he received in service to the city in a dusty box in his basement.

Neary received his first Ganci medal in 1974 for rescuing a pregnant woman and her 4-year-old son from a huge fire in an apartment on Home St. in Longwood, the Bronx. Neary and his lieutenant “moved swiftly through a wall of flames” to find mother and child cowering by a window blocked by a window guard, according to an FDNY account of the rescue.

The two tore off the window guard and Neary “shielded the lieutenant and the woman with his body” as they escaped on to a ladder truck outside.

“His clothes smoldering and his strength about spent, Neary leaped headfirst to the unsupported ladder wavering about 3 feet away,” the FDNY’s account of the rescue stated.

Neary suffered third-degree burns to his face, wrists and legs making the rescue.

Three years later, after he was promoted to lieutenant, Neary rescued a small unconscious boy from a fire in an apartment on W. 147th St. in Harlem.

He used a door that he and his colleagues ripped off its hinges as a heat shield as they searched for the child.

“We’re so proud of him. It’s a great honor which he truly deserves,” Carol Neary, 79, said. “He’s going to have to accept it because he can’t fight it now.”

The first recipient of the Neary medal will be Capt. Jonathan Shields of Ladder Co. 42 in the Bronx, who ran into a smoky blaze on New Year’s Eve on the sixth floor of a Bronx apartment building three times, rescuing three people, all members of the same family.

“[He] acted within the highest traditions of the Fire Department of the City of New York, and for his efforts, he is the inaugural recipient of the BC Thomas J. Neary Bronx-Harlem Firefighter Medal,” the FDNY said in a writeup about his heroic save.

When Shields arrived at the scene, the smoke was so thick that he couldn’t read the thermal imaging camera to see if there was anyone down the blackened hallway.

“We had to go old-school, crawling and feeling our way,” Shields remembered. After finding the first two family members and pulling them back so his firefighters could take them to a lower floor, Shields remembered that there was a dead-end hallway to the right.

“I said to myself, ‘I gotta search this hallway in case someone missed the stairway,’ ” he recalled. “So I went down there and found the daughter.”

Shields knew he was up for a medal but never realized he would be the inaugural recipient of the Neary medal.

“When I was first told I was getting it, I said, ‘What’s the Neary medal?’ ” he joked. “But then I heard it was for Tom Neary. He was the Michael Jordan of the Fire Department. It’s like being given a medal honoring Wayne Gretzky.”

Shields, like Neary, was humble about the heroic save.

“I was just at the right place at the right time,” he said.

“The Battalion Chief Thomas J. Neary Medal is a distinct honor, named after a man who exhibited immense bravery and valor in over 30 years of service to the FDNY. We are thrilled to have a medal named after him, the first firefighter to win the department’s highest medal twice, and we know his legacy of courage and humility will endure,” Fire Commissioner Laura Kavanagh said in a statement.

“Congratulations to Capt. Shields, the inaugural winner of the Neary Medal. His selfless acts of bravery mimic those of Chief Neary, and he is truly in good company.”
May 6, 2010
GREAT JOB by my Good Friend Herb Eysser & Billy O'Mara in putting together this Remembrance of Tom Neary that will live on .....Louie G. & Tom's Wife are so right that Tom would have shunned this Honor..... Tom was Extremely Capable & also Extremely Humble.
May 16, 2008
Capt. Shields L 42 might be the league leader in medals among active members. He has been awarded several over the years.