May 6, 1947 – Aug. 22, 2012
Alvin K. Smith, a U.S. Navy veteran and retired Buffalo firefighter who won at least two medals for bravery, died Wednesday in Buffalo General Medical Center after a long illness. He was 65.
Mr. Smith, an East High School graduate, served four years in the military and 18 in the Buffalo Fire Department, earning accolades and honors for heroism. He was one of nine family members, including his brother Garnell, who served in the Fire Department at the same time.
He was cited in particular for his actions in a 1980 structure fire and for rescuing an elderly woman from her burning home in 1993, and he also assisted in the rescue of then-Fire Commissioner Fred Langdon and another firefighter from the Connecticut Street Armory fire.
Born in Buffalo, Mr. Smith went on after high school to serve four years as a flight crew-certified, yeoman second class in the Navy. He was assigned to Patrol Squadron 49, Anti-Submarine Warfare Group, at the Patuxent River Naval Air Station in Maryland and participated in a four-month sea-based mission during the Vietnam War. The unit flew missions out of bases in the Philippines and Thailand.
He attended Erie Community College City Campus and Rosary Hill College, from which he earned a degree. While in school, he also worked for the state Department of Mental Hygiene as a state safety officer in the West Seneca School District and inspected homes for the mentally disabled in Western New York.
He joined the Buffalo Fire Department on March 19, 1979, and was assigned to the 7th Battalion, Hook & Ladder Company 7, at Leroy and Halbert streets. After a year with the 7th Battalion, he transferred to the 3rd Battalion, Hook and Ladder Company 6, then located at Best and Earl streets and later at Jefferson and Kingsley streets, where he remained until he retired Nov. 28, 1997.
During his fire career, he was awarded the Edward H. Butler Bronze Medal for heroism for his actions in a structure fire Feb. 13, 1980.
The Butler medals are named for late Buffalo Evening News Publisher Edward H. Butler and are awarded annually.
He also received the A.B. Wright Bravery Medal for helping to save an elderly woman found unconscious and badly burned on the second floor of her engulfed Masten Avenue home on Jan. 12, 1993. And he helped rescue Langdon and firefighter Ted Maldonado from the armory.
He and another firefighter were injured in another fire on Riley Street that was started by defective wiring and damaged three homes.
Mr. Smith ultimately retired because of injuries suffered after falls from rooftops, but he remained active and closely connected to the department.
“I’m going to miss him dearly,” said Garnell Smith, his brother, who retired from the department as a deputy commissioner. “He had a lot of friends on the Fire Department, and they all respected him and loved him, and they’re going to miss him.”
Mr. Smith also enjoyed riding motorcycles and traveling nationwide on his bike with friends.
Survivors include his wife, the former Elizett F. Figueroa; four children, Tracy Bradshaw-Morris, Michael A. Whigham, Kito and Shani; three brothers, Garnell, Carl and Richard; and two sisters, Yvonne, and Renee Turner.
A service will be at 11 a.m. Tuesday in Mount Zion Church of God - Holiness, 32 Oakgrove Ave. at Hedley Place.