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White Plains Firefighters Mourn Passing Of Former Chief 'Bill' McMahon

William J. McMahon Jr., who was known as "Bill," retired from the White Plains Fire Department in 1986. He left behind a legacy of caring that, firefighters say, that would be hard to match. McMahon died Monday at the age of 93.
William J. McMahon Jr., who was known as "Bill," retired from the White Plains Fire Department in 1986. He left behind a legacy of caring that, firefighters say, that would be hard to match. McMahon died Monday at the age of 93. Photo Credit: Provided

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. -- White Plains firefighters were mourning the loss of their former chief, William J. McMahon, who died Monday at the age of 93.

Current Chief Richard Lyman, who has been with the department for 40 years, said Thursday that he has served under four wonderful chiefs, but none were as special to him as “Bill,” as McMahon was called.

“He encouraged me throughout by career, kept me on track and kept in close touch even after he retired,” Lyman said.

Firefighters, due to the nature of their jobs, are like “one big family,” Lyman said, adding that McMahon was a "father figure" to many of them.

McMahon was “just a phenomenal guy,” Lyman said, who took a personal interest in his fellow firefighters.

McMahon knew, Lyman said, better than anyone that “it’s not just about getting the job down; it’s the people that get the job done."

McMahon joined the fire department in 1951. He rose through the ranks and was promoted to chief in 1977.

After he retired in 1986, McMahon became very active in the New York State Association of Fire Chiefs and became its president in 1989.

Among his accomplishments was the promotion of legislation requiring sprinkler systems in all new buildings.

McMahon served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. One of the youngest sailors ever to achieve the rank of Chief Petty Officer, he was honorably discharged in 1946.

McMahon served at Pensacola Naval Air Station, Seattle Naval Air Station, San Diego Naval Air Station and various locations in the South Pacific.

He was born in Jeddo, Pa, in 1923 to Leonora Ellen Swift and William J. McMahon, Sr. His family moved to White Plains in 1928.

He was predeceased by his wife, Leila Blanche (Jeannotte) McMahon in 2008, and seven of his nine siblings: Annie Lee, Thomas McMahon, Mary Veatch, Helynn Kapp, John McMahon, Patsy Bola and Peggy Calabrese.

He is survived by his sister, Bonnie Sommerhoff of Plantation, Fla., and three children: Anne FitzSimmons (John) and William J. McMahon III (Joanne) of White Plains, and Mary McCormack (John) of Poughquag.

McMahon is also survived by grandchildren Sean (Kimberly), Brian (Molly) and Kayla McCormack; John William and Mary Kate FitzSimmons; and Billy, Casey, Megan and Jessica McMahon; and great-grandchild Jackson McCormack.

Visitation is 3-8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 2, at the McMahon-Lyon &Hartnett Funeral Home, 491 Mamaroneck Ave., White Plains.

The funeral home can be reached at (914) 949-7777.

A funeral Mass will be conducted at 10:30 a.m. Friday, Feb. 3, at St. John the Evangelist Church, 148 Hamilton Ave., White Plains.

Burial will follow at Mount Calvary Cemetery, Hillside Road, White Plains.

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