The Nassau County Firefighters Museum & Education Center hosted its Annual Badge of Courage Gala on Friday, Oct. 9, on Museum Row in Garden City. During the event, which introduced new exhibits and debuted the new building façade, the museum bestowed three awards for notable contributions to the fire service.
The Firefighters Leadership Award was presented to businessman, philanthropist and civic leader Butch Yamali, president of hospitality and catering enterprises, The Dover Group.
Chief John P. Brown, chief instructor of the Nassau County Fire Service Academy (NCFSA) and former chief of the Baldwin Fire Department was presented with the Francis X. Pendl Firefighter Award.
Joseph Sanford, Jr., ex-chief, Inwood Fire Department was posthumously awarded the Firefighters Humanitarian Award.
Butch Yamali, president of the Dover Group in Freeport, is a civic, philanthropic and business leader in the New York food industry. A father of three, he was born and raised in Island Park and resides in Merrick with his wife Linda.
Yamali built a thriving, off-premises catering business before expanding to operate his own establishments; developing snack bar and concession stands in municipal park locations and earning vending machine contracts with government and corporate clients.
Yamali, who regularly serves as a business analyst for small businesses on FOX Business News, was named Business Man of the Year by the Nassau County Republican Committee in 2015 and has been recognized as Businessman of the Year in the Village of Freeport.
He has served on the board of the American Red Cross and Pronto (food pantry) of Long Island and has received recognition from many organizations including Man of the Year by The Center of Developmental Disabilities in Woodbury; Honorary Fire Chief by the Nassau County Fire Commission and Honorary Police Chief in 2014 from the New York State Police Benevolent Association. Butch has received The Leadership Award from the Freeport Union Free School District; was named President of the Freeport Educational Foundation; and was honored with the American Red Cross’ Humanitarian Award.
In 2014, Yamali began his first term as president of the Merrick Union Free School District Board. Most notably, his highest honor was being named in 2015 as Honorary
Today The Dover Group consists of a number of successful catering halls, restaurants and businesses including the Coral House in Baldwin, The Sands on Lido Beach Catering Hall, Malibu Shore Club, Camp Malibu, Maliblue Oyster Bar, Hudson’s on the Mile, Dover Caterers, Quick Snack Vending, Dream Event Planning, Carnival Ice Cream and the most recent acquisition, Peter’s Clam Bar in Island Park. The Dover Group is one of the largest hospitality, catering, vending and ice cream providers in the Metropolitan area.
Chief John P. Brown, a Vietnam-era U.S. Navy veteran, joined the Baldwin Fire Department in 1971. As a member of Truck Company 1, he served as a captain twice and rose through the ranks from deputy chief to chief of department in 1987. During his time with the department, Brown was recognized for his actions at two separate working fires, which resulted in the saving of two lives.
In 1991, Brown joined the Nassau County Fire Service Academy as a second deputy chief instructor. He held this rank until his full-time appointment to industrial coordinator of training. During his tenure, he coordinated the acquisition and the curriculum development of the Long Island Railroad Training Program at the academy. Brown was also instrumental in the building of the shipboard firefighting vessel and the United States Coast Guard Training curriculum for both the United States Merchant Marine Academy and SUNY Maritime College.
Brown was appointed assistant chief instructor of the academy in 1999 and chief instructor in 2004. During his time at the academy, he has been involved with the building of five new state-of-the-art burn buildings. He has also developed much of the curriculum for the academy, including a full 66-hour curriculum in Essential Firefighting and hands-on primary course. He has established a relationship with Nassau Community College’s Fire Science Degree Program, enabling firefighters to earn college credits for five courses taken at the academy.
On Sept. 11, 2001, Brown was working at the academy. Classes were canceled and Brown, along with other members of the Baldwin Fire Department, were asked to take the department’s heavy rescue into Manhattan. The crew arrived prior to the collapse of 7 World Trade. The Nassau County Fire Service Academy and VEEB lost five instructors that day. Brown took on the task of honoring the five members by obtaining steel from WTC Tower 1 and creating a display at the fire academy. In their remembrance, Brown has recently requested that the five burn buildings be named in honor of the five instructors killed on Sept. 11.
In addition to running the fire academy, Brown is the owner and operator of the John P. Brown Ladder Company and often donates his time and expertise to entities such as the museum.
Brown and his wife Patti have been married for 42 years and together they have three children and seven grandchildren.
Joseph Sanford Jr. was born in 1971 in Tuskegee, AL. Junior, as he was affectionately known, moved to New York in 1992, where he met his wife Jacqueline. Together, they had three children: Douglas, Janisha and Isaiah. Sanford was a faithful family man with a desire to serve his community.
He joined the Inwood Fire Department in October 1996 where he became a member of Engine Company #1. It was here that he began to excel in the fire training certification courses and gained a reputation as an outstanding and dedicated firefighter. He loved being a part of the brotherhood in the volunteer fire service. He was also known for his expressive personality and infectious smile. Sanford went on to hold several positions within the department during his 18 years of service. He moved up the ranks and served as lieutenant in 2005, captain in 2007 and assistant chief in 2009.
After his term in office as chief, Sanford continued his service with the department and also focused on his other hobbies. He became a co-owner of a semi-professional football team, the Nassau Golden Eagles. His love of life was apparent to all that knew him.
During a house fire in Woodmere on Dec. 19, 2014, Sanford had an accident which ultimately led to his passing on Dec. 23, 2014. He was a beloved husband, father, brother, friend and an amazing fireman. He is greatly missed by all.
Alana Petrocelli, executive director of the Nassau County Firefighters Museum said, “We are honored to recognize these three men who, each through their own, unique individual service, earned the awards to be presented at The Badge of Courage Dinner. The dinner helps raise funds for our Museum & Education Center so that it can continue to provide valuable resources for saving lives through fire safety education—a mission supported and exemplified by Chief Sanford, Chief Brown and Honorary Chief Yamali.”