Remembering a true son of Woodhaven
by Ed Wendell
Mar 26, 2014 | 14837 views | 10 10 comments | 239 239 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Our community has changed over the last two decades, so you can forgive those who look up at the street sign on 87th Street that says “Jimmy Young Place” and wonder who he was and why this street was named for him.

Those are the people who never knew him. But those that did know Jimmy Young have not forgotten, and they never will.

On March 28, 1994, Engine Company 24/Hook & Ladder 5 raced to the scene of a fire at 62 Watts Street in Manhattan. It is hard to comprehend the courage it takes to run into a burning building. All of our instincts scream at us to run away from danger, yet there are those that not only face it, they stand up to it. They run towards it.

They put their lives at risk to save and rescue people they do not know.

We lost three brave souls as a result of that fire. Captain John J. Drennan, Firefighter Christopher J. Siedenburg, and Firefighter James F. Young.

Jimmy had just turned 31 that January and was a true son of Woodhaven. He was baptized and confirmed at St. Thomas the Apostle, where he also went to school. He used to deliver the Leader/Observer and even wrote for this paper for a while, delivering recaps for the neighborhood softball league.

“I didn’t have one day's problem with Jimmy, he was close to perfection,” his mother Virginia says. “He got along with everyone. He never smoked, never drank. I can’t tell you how many of my friends wanted him to marry their daughters.”

Virginia Young says that everything happens for a reason, that life’s tragedies must be part of a larger plan. “We almost lost Jimmy in a car accident, almost 10 years to the day before the fire," she recalls.

And to illustrate this point, Virginia Young reminds us that this accident happened at Atlantic and 87th, the street that would one day bear her son's name. "It was touch and go, but we prayed and he survived and he made a vow to live his life to the fullest,” she said. “And he did.”

Jimmy’s sister Maureen says that her brother touched so many lives, that she hears stories about him from people she never knew. “He must have had 500 close personal friends,” she said. “He knew everybody and everybody knew him.”

She reflects on the last time she saw Jimmy at a birthday party for their brother Michael. “He was leaving to take his girlfriend home, and we said ‘See you later’ to each other, and that was it,” she remembers. “The fire was a few days later.”

Shortly after a funeral during which the streets of Woodhaven were flooded with more than 10,000 firefighters, Maureen gave birth to her daughter.

“I really wish that he'd gotten to know my kids; his nieces and nephews,” she said. “I wish they had been able to know him.”

One of Jimmy’s best friends, Jack Lentini, created a Facebook group "for everyone who knew Jimmy so they could share their memories and photos of him." Hundreds of people have joined the group where they reminisce and share stories about Jimmy.

They share memories of the times they hung out together, listening to music, playing softball, having fun. They reminisce about the conversations they had and the jokes they shared and the funny nicknames he gave them and the poems that he wrote in his marble composition notebook.

They remember the kind and generous acts of a man who would go the extra mile for people, whether he knew them or not.

“I couldn't believe all of the memories they had of Jimmy,” his mother said. “I’m very grateful. That people remember him, even 20 years later, shows you how special he was. I miss him so.”

Maureen says that reading memories about Jimmy gives you an idea of the kind of life he led.

“He was so generous and outgoing, he made friends with everybody,” she said. “He touched so many people’s lives and made an impact on them.”

She finds comfort in the words of the Facebook memorial page, especially with the anniversary approaching. “Time heals all wounds,” she says. “It gets easier, but it never gets easy.”

And so, if you weren’t familiar with the man behind the name on the sign on 87th Street, you now know a little more about him and the sacrifice he made. And you now know that those that knew Jimmy Young best honor his memory by remembering him not just for how he died, but for how he lived.
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Terry Cavanaugh
March 30, 2014
I was so happy to read this article. Jimmy's mom sent it to me. Not a day goes by that I don't think of him. People that didn't know him may think those of us that did are exaggerating about what a wonderful person he was. I promise, we are not. He made the world a better place. Although he is not here with us physically, he lives on in in each of us because he touched us so. Thank you for keeping his story alive.
Victoria Verga
March 28, 2014
Great article. What a special man, great friend. Still miss you Jim.
Mary Byrne Northrup
March 26, 2014
I have been friends with Jimmy for as long as I can remember for we attended St Thomas the Apostle grammar school and Franklin K Lane high school together scheduling a lot classes together. One of the most special thing I remember about Jimmy is his dream book, he had the wildest dreams and would write them down in a book he kept next to his bed and then he'd share them with me the next day..He was my friend and I think of him often.
John Byrne
March 26, 2014
I remember talking music with Jimmy, he was a big Tommy Bolin fan and was into some really great music. We shared a passion Rock and the rock gods of the day and we would talk when he came over to visit my sister Mary. It is funny how memories can remain so vivid decades later.
Paulie Rugen Jr
March 26, 2014
Jimi was a friend first and then an adult second . He ALWAYS had a smile on his face . I miss the conversations & all the movies we watched inside Tyler & Young Video, stopping the movie to talk TRIVIA about the movie . He was like the big brother I never had ! Continue to rest in peace old friend .
March 26, 2014
Unfortunately, I never met Jimmy but I've noted his name on the street sign as I am only 7 years young to Woodhaven. Thank you for this article, thank you Jimmy for your service, and thank you again for the reminder that a mans legacy speaks for itself.
Rich Criscuola
March 26, 2014
Jimmy was one of a kind, never had a bad word for anyone.He used to get my concert tickets & even deliver them to me. The last thing he said to me was: "you're a good man,Rich" , Jimmy wasn't a good man, he was a Great Man! Rest in peace my friend!
kathy j
March 26, 2014
Wow he is gone that long did not know him personally but he worked in video store and would always call me if movie was available and put kids movies on side for me for my kids such a nice man

Maureen Denn-Serra
March 26, 2014
Such a great article. Made me smile and gave me goose bumps. Jimmy was one of a kind. Miss you my friend!
David John
October 06, 2014
Great article we were all blessed to spend time with him