Fallen firefighter was neighbor and local hero

Charles Mostoller

Joyce Craig-Lewis was the hero of her block.

“We respected her and her job,” said a friend and next-door neighbor at 1317 Friendship Street, who asked she not be identified. “She was the hero of the block. She was loved and she’s definitely going to be missed.”

Craig-Lewis died early Tuesday fighting a basement fire in West Oak Lane. Craig-Lewis, 36, was Philadelphia’s first female firefighter to die in the line of duty. On Wednesday, details of her funeral service were announced and Local 22, the Philadelphia Fire Fighters and Paramedics Union announced the creation of a memorial fund for her children.

And on her tidy block of two-family homes in Northeast Philadelphia her neighbors and friends were still reeling from the news.

“We’re still trying to deal with it,” her next-door neighbor added, through a screen door. “We talked all the time. She was a great friend as long as she lived here. Most of the neighbors we all help each other out and she always helped us out and we always looked out for each other. It’s just sad.”

Aqeel Bhatti, who’s next-door home shared a front lawn with Craig-Lewis on the other side, said he only moved in at the beginning of the summer but the two families quickly bonded.

“Her daughter used to play with my two kids. She would just leave them here and they would play together,” Bhatti said. “It’s a great loss. Not just for the family but for the department and the city of Philadelphia.”

Firefighters at Engine 64 in Lawncrest, her last post, were undergoing psychological counseling Wednesday. Firefighters declined to be interviewed Wednesday.

Craig-Lewis, who celebrated her 11th year with the department on the day she died, was the mother of a 16-month-old daughter and 16-year-old son. In their honor, Local 22 announced the establishment of the Joyce Craig-Lewis Memorial Fund. All money raised will go toward her two children.

“Joyce made the ultimate sacrifice while protecting the citizens of Philadelphia,” Local 22 President Joe Schulle said in a statement. “It’s our hope that people will open their hearts and checkbooks to help support her two beloved children she’s left behind.

Services announced

The first viewing will be held on Friday from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Batchelor Brothers Funeral Services on 7112 North Broad Street.

The second viewing will be held Saturday from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. at the funeral home. Her funeral services will follow the second viewing.

Craig-Lewis will be interred at Ivy Hill Cemetery at 1201 Easton Road in East Mt. Airy.

More from our Sister Sites