Fallen Philadelphia Firefighter, Marine Veteran, Celebrated as Hero

fun4

Philadelphia Fire Department Lt. Sean Joseph Williamson was buried on Monday, June 27, 2022, following a funeral service at Epiphany of Our Lord Catholic Church in South Philadelphia. Williamson died nine days earlier when a building collapsed on him. Composite by Coffee or Die Magazine.

Fallen Philadelphia firefighter and US Marine Corps veteran Lt. Sean Williamson is being remembered as a hero who was always faithful to his nation, his beloved city, and his company, Ladder 18.

Williamson, 51, was buried Monday, June 27, nine days after a fire-ravaged building in the Fairhill section of the city collapsed on him. Rescuers saved three fellow firefighters and an injured city building inspector after pulling them from the rubble.

“He gave his last full measure serving our city,” Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel said during Williamson’s funeral eulogy at Epiphany of Our Lord Catholic Church in South Philadelphia. “He died the way he lived, exhibiting the motto of the US Marine Corps — ‘Always faithful’ — and giving the dedicated service that has characterized the Philadelphia Fire Department for hundreds of years. He has joined a pantheon of heroes more than 300 strong, the men and women of the Philadelphia Fire Department who have sacrificed themselves for this great city. It is for them and for those we serve in their memory that our mission continues.”

Shortly before the collapse, Williamson and the others were performing an “overhaul” on the walls, ceilings, and voids in the damaged building to ensure the blaze had been extinguished.

Fallen Philadelphia firefighter

Philadelphia Fire Department Lt. Sean Joseph Williamson died on June 18, 2022, when a fire-ravaged building in the 300 block of West Indiana Street in the Fairhill section of the city collapsed. Philadelphia Fire Department photo.

Philadelphia Fire Department Lt. Sean Joseph Williamson died on June 18, 2022, when a fire-ravaged building in the 300 block of West Indiana Street in the Fairhill section of the city collapsed. Philadelphia Fire Department photo.

Williamson had served in the Philadelphia Fire Department for 27 years following a stint in the Marines, which is why Thiel recalled him as a “force for good” who “dedicated his entire life to serving others in two of the toughest ways imaginable.”

Lt. David Herron told mourners that Williamson had landed a construction job when he exited the Corps, but he’d missed the camaraderie he’d loved in the Marines.

He rediscovered it in Engine 52 and later served in Engine 55 and Ladder 22 before being selected to join the city’s heavy rescue company, Rescue 1, and the state’s elite urban search and rescue team, Pennsylvania Task Force 1.

Retired Lt. George Kiefer told mourners that his fellow firefighters might’ve thought the rookie Williamson would be “naturally all spit and polished” after leaving the Marines, but they discovered he was a “get your hands dirty kind of guy” who took to battling blazes like “a wrecking ball” with a particular penchant for rescuing people.

Fellow firefighters nicknamed the tenacious Williamson “Buzz Lightyear” and “Pig Pen.”

Fallen Philadelphia firefighter

Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel delivers the eulogy for Lt. Sean Joseph Williamson on Monday, June 27, 2022, at Epiphany of Our Lord Catholic Church in South Philadelphia. Williamson died nine days earlier when a building collapsed on him. Screenshot via public funeral video.

Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel delivers the eulogy for Lt. Sean Joseph Williamson on Monday, June 27, 2022, at Epiphany of Our Lord Catholic Church in South Philadelphia. Williamson died nine days earlier when a building collapsed on him. Still taken from public funeral video.

“You could see the Marine in him right away,” Kiefer said. “You had to watch what you said to Sean. If he thought it was an order, it was going to get done quick.”

In his eulogy, Kiefer recalled Williamson as a kind and professional man who’d always joke, “As long as you were smiling, you can say anything you want to me.”

Lt. Sean Joseph Williamson was born Nov. 23, 1970, in Philadelphia. He’s survived by his mother, Barbara Williamson-Nerch; his children, Patrick, Alyssa Glassey, and Kierra Kuzma; his siblings, Erin, Debbie, and Donna; and his partner, Dana Kuzma.

He was buried in a private ceremony.

“Sean was a caring father, spouse, friend, and one hell of a firefighter,” Herron told mourners.

Read Next: Tears and Thanks for a Kandiyohi County Firefighter Crushed to Death in Storm

Noelle is an award-winning journalist from Cincinnati, Ohio, who came to Coffee or Die Magazine following a fellowship from Military Veterans in Journalism. She graduated from the University of Cincinnati with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has strived to be a military journalist ever since her internships with the US Army Cadet Command in college. She worked as a civilian journalist covering several units, including the 75th Ranger Regiment on Fort Benning, before she joined the military herself and served as a public affairs specialist attached to the 3rd Infantry Division. She deployed once to fill a role as a media analyst for the Special Operations Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve in Kuwait. She has a passion for sharing stories of heroes and people who are far more interesting than they think they are. She follows where the job takes her, but currently resides on the East Coast in Georgia.
More from Coffee or Die Magazine
Airmen assigned to the MacDill Air Force Base are allowed to evacuate as Hurricane Ian approaches, but some may have to pay for their own evacuation.
The combined Chinese-Russian surface action group intercepted by US forces earlier in September in the Bering Sea was far more powerful than initially reported.
Ukraine’s defense intelligence agency reported that Russian commanders authorized rear detachments to open fire on soldiers who abandon their battlefield positions.
A Houston, Texas, couple was stunned to find that a gun case they bought from an online surplus retailer held a dozen M16-style rifles.
The defense team is trying to punch holes in the prosecution’s theory about what caused the Bonhomme Richard blaze.
The Chinese-Russian surface action group was sailing north of Kiska Island.
Larry Nemec mysteriously disappeared off his boat near Galveston, Texas.
NCIS claims Seaman Recruit Ryan Mays sparked the $1.2 billion Bonhomme Richard blaze.
TacGas, a media production company for the tactical and entertainment industries, made its mark producing and capturing hyperrealistic and supremely accurate military simulations for its clients’ marketing and training needs.
Now that active-duty Army recruits can select their first duty stations, Alaska’s bases and Fort Carson, Colorado, have come out on top. Midwestern bases and Bragg — not so much.