After Pleasant Plains resident and firefighter Patrick D. Byrne injured his foot battling a fire in Brooklyn last year, his mother asked him to try to be more careful on the job.
It's one thing if you're struggling to save a life, she told him. "But when you're just trying to save a building ..." Her voice trailed off.
On Sept. 11, Mr. Byrne and his colleagues at Ladder Co. 101, Brooklyn, saved countless lives when they responded to the alarm at the World Trade Center. Now Mr. Byrne is one of hundreds of firefighters lost that day.
Most of those who knew Mr. Byrne say he was a hard worker, a great athlete and a talented handyman who was also very private.
Born in Tottenville, he moved to Huguenot with his family as an infant. The family settled in Pleasant Plains in 1966, where he spent the remainder of his life.
He was a graduate of Tottenville High School and studied accounting for two years at Staten Island Community College, Sunnyside.
"But then sitting in a chair and being confined to a chair -- it wasn't him," said his mother, Anne Byrne.
Rather than pursue a career that would keep him in an office, Mr. Byrne started his own roofing company in the mid-1980s. He worked from his home, and expanded his business to include carpentry, tile and concrete work.
"I think you could drive all over Staten Island and see his roofs, windows, decks and sidewalks," said his mother.
In 1985 he took, and passed, the police exam, but decided not to pursue a police career. He took the firefighters' exam and eventually enrolled in the Fire Academy. He graduated in 1994 and was assigned to Ladder 101, in Red Hook, Brooklyn.
"He was my light and my laughter," said his mother. "He always used to say something funny to make you laugh. He was well loved and will be sorely missed."
He continued his work in construction, and was also very active in the Smith League and the South Shore Softball Association. He also played for the firehouse team, the Red Hook Raiders.
"He was always one of the better hitters in the [Smith] League," said his longtime friend, Prince's Bay resident Christopher Walsh, a founding member of the South Shore league. "He probably had the best arm of anybody I ever played with."
Mr. Byrne also volunteered to mow the grass and keep up the field, and even ran the South Shore League in 1994.
"Whatever the league needed, he did," said Mr. Walsh. "Anything that had to be done to that field, you could always count on Patrick to be there. He loved it."
At the firehouse, too, he distinguished himself as a hard worker.
"He was an excellent firefighter who knew his job," said Thomas Giordano, Mr. Byrne's captain at Ladder 101. "He was always the first one to help the other guys."
Mr. Byrne also distinguished himself as a "bucketeer," soaking the newest firefighter in the house with a bucket of water poured down from the roof.
"He was 'king of the bucketeers'," said Capt. Giordano. "He was excellent at it. He was the best at it. He wouldn't miss his target."
In his spare time, Mr. Byrne liked to go dancing in Manhattan. He loved to travel. He also took up golf about two years ago.
He enjoyed his work as a firefighter, and was proud of his abilities.
Whenever a family member asked him what he was doing at the firehouse, said his mother, he'd reply, "Fighting fires, saving lives."
"It was tongue-in-cheek, really," she said. "But that's what they do, isn't it?"
In addition to his mother, surviving are his father, Robert Sr.; five brothers, Robert Jr., William, Garrette, Francis and Thomas; and three sisters, Joanne Finn, Catherine Tolino and Judith Stone.
A memorial service will be Thursday from the Bedell-Pizzo Funeral Home, Tottenville, with a mass at 11 a.m. at St. Thomas the Apostle R.C. Church, Pleasant Plains.