The roller hockey rink in Juniper Valley Park in Middle Village, was dedicated on Saturday, October 14th to Fireman James Bohan, 25, a former resident who was killed in a fire on December 18, 1998.
“It’s the greatest honor we could ever receive for him,” Margaret Bohan, the mother of the deceased fireman, said.
“It’s a lovely day and I’m sure (Jimmy) is watching down on us.”
Bohan’s mother was just one of the many honored guests that included her husband, John, and extended family. Also in attendance were City Park’s Commissioner Henry Stern, Congressmen Joseph Crowley and Anthony Weiner, State Senator Serphin Maltese, Assemblyman Michael Cohen, Councilman Thomas Ognibene, Fire Department Commissioner Thomas Von Essen and Maspeth Federal Savings Bank President Kenneth Rudzewick.
Many members of the Fire Department were also present including representatives from Engine Companies 301, 262, 257 and 228, and Ladder Companies 170 and 150.
Guests at the inauguration were greeted by the sound of bagpipes from the Fire Department’s Emerald Society, and members of the Middle Village Roller Hockey Team handed out red carnations with Bohan’s name and shield number printed on them.
But in keeping with the fun and generous spirit of their fallen hero; friends, family and local hockey supporters turned the day’s event into a small celebration.
There were free hotdogs, a live band and 100 green and white balloons. The colors were for James “Curly” Bohan’s favorite team, the New York Jets, but the balloons themselves were a remembrance of his kindness.
Jill Vick, a friend of the Bohan family, stood at the podium and recounted her favorite story about James Bohan. Her brother, Ray and Bohan were upstate at an Irish Festival in East Durham. Bohan disappeared while they were walking down the street. When Ray found him, Bohan was holding a hundred balloons.
“Come on,” he said to Ray, “we have to go give a balloon to each kid we see.”
With that said, Vick gave the command and the 100 green and white balloons were released.
Such memories of Bohan’s generosity were plentiful at the dedication ceremony.
The day before he died, Bohan and a group of firemen had distributed toys at the children’s ward of Brookdale Hospital in Brooklyn. The next day, Bohan and fellow firefighters Christopher Bopp, 27, of Midwood, Brooklyn and Lieutenant Joseph Cavalieri, 42, of Malverne, Long Island, were overcome by smoke inhalation while battling a fire in a low-income senior residence. They had been searching for a woman who was believed to be trapped in the building.
The three firemen died at the very same hospital Bohan had been distributing toys at the day before.
Fireman Kevin Roth worked with Bohan at Ladder Company 170 and Engine Company 257 in Canarsie, Brooklyn. “This is a great way to honor Jimmy and all three of them actually,” Roth said. “It’s a very nice way to honor a guy that grew up in Middle Village.”
Naming the hockey rink in honor of Bohan was the work of many people. Rudzewick, also a member of the Juniper Park Civic Association, submitted the plan to Community Board 5 where it was supported by Councilman Ognibene.
But construction of the rink itself was largely the work of Eileen Maloney, president of the Middle Village Roller Hockey Association. She lobbied for seven years to have the rink built as a place where her son and the neighborhood children could play.
Maloney says that credit for the creation of the rink belongs with the kids who spurred her on to fight for it. She said it’s only fitting “to have the rink named for Jimmy, who was a pioneer in his own way.”
At the end of the ceremony, Commissioner Stern and the Bohan family unveiled a memorial plaque for the hockey rink with James Bohan’s name on it. No sooner were they done, than Bohan’s friends from the Fire Department tied on their skates and started warming up for the inaugural game against the teenagers of Middle Village.