Fallen Philadelphia Firefighter, Marine Veteran, Celebrated as Hero

June 27, 2022Noelle Wiehe

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 faithfuland 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.

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.

“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 Wiehe
Noelle Wiehe

Noelle is a former staff writer for Coffee or Die through a fellowship from Military Veterans in Journalism. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and interned with the US Army Cadet Command. Noelle also worked as a civilian journalist covering several units, including the 75th Ranger Regiment on Fort Benning, before she joined the military as a public affairs specialist.

More from Coffee or Die Magazine
Coffee Or Die Photo
From the Team Room to Team Room Design: An Operator’s Creative Journey

BRCC partners with Team Room Design for an exclusive T-shirt release!

Coffee Or Die Photo
Get Your Viking On: The Exclusive 30 Sec Out BRCC Shirt Club Design

Thirty Seconds Out has partnered with BRCC for an exclusive shirt design invoking the God of Winter.

Grizzly Forge BRCC shirt
Limited Edition: Grizzly Forge Blades on an Awesome BRCC Shirt

Lucas O'Hara of Grizzly Forge has teamed up with BRCC for a badass, exclusive Shirt Club T-shirt design featuring his most popular knife and tiomahawk.

BRCC Limited Edition Josh Raulerson Blackbeard Skull Shirt
From Naval Service to Creative Canvas: BRCC Veteran Artist Josh Raulerson

Coffee or Die sits down with one of the graphic designers behind Black Rifle Coffee's signature look and vibe.

Medal of Honor is held up.
Biden Will Award Medal of Honor to Army Helicopter Pilot Who Rescued Soldiers in Vietnam Firefight

Biden will award the Medal of Honor to a Vietnam War Army helicopter pilot who risked his life to save a reconnaissance team from almost certain death.

dear jack mandaville
Dear Jack: Which Historic Battle Would You Want To Witness?

Ever wonder how much Jack Mandaville would f*ck sh*t up if he went back in time? The American Revolution didn't even see him coming.

west point time capsule
West Point Time Capsule Yields Centuries-Old Coins

A nearly 200-year-old West Point time capsule that at first appeared to yield little more than dust contains hidden treasure, the US Military Academy said.

  • About Us
  • Privacy Policy
  • Careers
Contact Us
Contact Us
© 2024 Coffee or Die Magazine. All Rights Reserved