On April 20, 2017 at 2:17PM, I lost my best friend, my brother William Tolley. As you are aware, he lost his life while fighting a fire in Brooklyn. Although I take some solace in knowing he died doing what he loved, and that he was never alone on that day, the resulting loss still consumes me.
Billy was that man many of us wish we could be. He was that man who lived a full life, even as it was cut cruelly short. In this short life that he lived, he managed to father a child that he adored, he traveled the world, and perhaps most admirably, he pursued not one but two great passions. His career as an FDNY firefighter, and drumming for his band, brought him great joy and purpose in life.
Just as admirable is the idea that both of his passions gave something to others. His career as a firefighter provided him ample opportunity to save lives. His time as a drummer in a successful band brought the joy of music to thousands of fans throughout the world. This is a common thread throughout Billy’s life.
Billy was also that man who wouldn’t pause to help another. I have witnessed my brother stop to change someone’s tire on the side of the road, or hand a $10 bill to someone who needed gas to get home. Billy and I had countless conversations about donating to one cause or another, usually first responder or military related causes. His charity wasn’t just financial though. Throughout my numerous deployments as a soldier, Billy always made sure to check in on my family. Or just show up to shovel snow from the driveway.
One more recent example of his kindness and charity revolves around a pair of guinea pigs he saw loose on the side of a street as he was driving home from work. He decided not to pass by and not take action. He stopped his car, picked them up and brought them home. To this day, his daughter Bella has one of them as her pet.
It is within this theme of helping others that I have created a foundation in Billy’s name. I can think of no better way to properly honor Billy’s legacy than to actively support others in need. The Fires & Drums Foundation will provide support to the families of First Responders and Military members. That support will be in the form of whatever that family needs, at that time. With your help, we can provide that support, and by extension, carry Billy’s name into the hearts of many others.
Thank you! Bobby Tolley, on behalf of William Tolley
April 20, 2017- Escorting Billy to Manhattan
April 21, 2017- Escort procession to Funeral Home
April 21, 2017- Bunting ceremony and press conference at E286/TL135
April 27, 2017- Funeral service (full)
April 27, 2017- news coverage of Billy's funeral
September 26, 2018- Plaque dedication and street renaming ceremonies.
One of Billy's biggest passions was playing in a band as a drummer. It is for this reason that the Foundation is named Fires & Drums. He first started drumming at the age of 15, setting up his drum kit in his bedroom. He would later meet Chris Pervelis, and the rest as they say is history. Billy and guitarist Chris Pervelis went on to found the first INTERNAL BLEEDING lineup in early 1991. Though there have been lineup changes through the years, the two constants were Billy and Chris. The band has released six albums, including a new album this month, their first without Billy. The band has toured throughout the world, including Europe, Russia and Southeast Asia. After Billy died, Kyle Eddy was recruited to take his place behind the drums. Billy's drum kit continues to be a part of the band without him, as an everlasting tribute.