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Late Lodi Firefighter, 60, Was 'Always There When You Needed Him'

William "Bill' Brownlee
William "Bill' Brownlee Photo Credit: COURTESY: Santangelo Funeral Home

LODI, N.J. -- Lodi firefighter Archie Dowson had a pact with longtime colleague and close friend William "Bill" Brownlee.

"When I became chief, he was going to be my captain," Dowson said, while making funeral arrangements Wednesday. "Then I was going to nominate him as the next chief.

"But God had other plans."

A funeral Mass is scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday at Corpus Christi Church for Brownlee, who died at home Tuesday night surrounded by loved ones.

There will then be a final call at Hose Co. #1 on Graham Lane.

A full fireman's wake will be held at Santangelo Funeral Home , where regular visitation will be from 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 on Friday. Brownlee will be cremated privately.

A repast will be held at the firehouse.

A mechanic by trade and a volunteer firefighter for more than 30 years, Brownlee was diagnosed with lung cancer last September.

The father of two "fought to the end," Fire Chief Ron Canicci told Daily Voice.

"He was was worried that he wasn't going to make it to his birthday," Dowson said. "His father was 59 when he died. Bill wanted to make it to 60."

He reached the milestone on Sunday.

Brownlee joined the department in 1981.

"He was like all rookies," said Dowson, who was already a decade into firefighting. "He was energetic, always ready to run to every job."

Over the years, the two became good friends.

"He was just one of those guys no one ever had a bad word about," Dowson told Daily Voice. ""It didn't matter what kind of day he was having. He was always there whenever anyone needed him, always there when the whistle went off.

"Sometimes he'd tell the late shift, 'You guys sleep the night. I'll stay.' That's the kind of guy he was."

Brownlee rescued a man swept away by floodwaters during Hurricane Floyd. He received a Medal of Valor for that rescue and for two others, including one during Hurricane Irene, Dowson said.

He was also a family man, devoted to his wife, Theresa (nee Tufaro), his son, Richard, and his daughter, Kellie, and his mother, Mildred.

"Anything they needed, he was there," Dowson said. "Anything you needed, he was the first one to step up.

"You try to think of one example but you end up thinking of so many. I'm still caught up in making sure everything is set right. But I'm sure as I go on they'll start coming to me."

In lieu of flowers contributions, can be made to the Brownlee children’s college fund.

MORE INFO: Santangelo Funeral Home

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