On Sunday May 15th, 2022, the East Meadow Fire Department, together, with Town of Hempstead officials, and our community, gathered to honor the 1998 Line of Duty passing of Firefighter Walter A. Ernst of Engine Company 4.
As the overcast skies turned to a beautiful sunny morning, East Meadow firefighters in full dress uniform lined up in preparation of a celebration of Walter’s life with the renaming of the street corner of Lion Lane and Legend Lane in Westbury, to Walter A. Ernst Lane.
A dedicated firefighter, Walter Ernst joined Engine Company # 4 on May 15, 1972. In a short period of time, Walter would demonstrate a level of expertise and commitment that made him an immediate favorite amongst Engine 4’s bravest.
He would serve our community and department for 26 years.
Although Walter had achieved his Life Membership honor more than ten years prior, he continued working for his fire company, answering alarms, attending training, and carrying out all the duties expected of him.
Walter took training members seriously breeding his 26 years of firefighting into the newest of members.
But on May 27, 1998, after one of those company trainings, Walter came home from training not feeling well.
Overnight the men of Engine 4 got the call for an ambulance to respond to Walter’s home. There, Chief Anthony Messina would realize it was too late.
In a fitting tribute, under a blue sunny skies, it was Ex Chief Anthony Messina who eulogized Walter for the man he was. This week would have been Walter’s 50th year in the East Meadow Fire Department. This day would not have been possible without the outstanding support of Hempstead Town Supervisor Donald Clavin and his team of town officials in attendance. Coordinating with our Town of Hempstead on behalf of the East Meadow Fire Department was Chief of Department Peter S. Cheswick.
The ceremony ended with the unveiling of the new street sign before Walter’s beloved wife Linda, her children, grandchildren, close friends, neighbors, and family.
Although time has proven us, Walter’s memory will never fade, today’s remembrance will serve as a day of honor, for a man who did so much for our community, and made the ultimate sacrifice.
STORY: John J. O’Brien Sr [email protected] PHOTOS: Jay Zinger