Since he was 5 years old, Joseph Patti can remember tagging along with his father, Vincent, as he went to volunteer at the Hillsborough Township Fire Company No. 2.
Patti, who is now 17 years old, was instantly hooked on becoming a firefighter and being someone that can help others in need.
“I just love helping people when something tough happens to them,” Patti said about becoming a firefighter. “It’s something that not many people do.”
Patti is now a junior firefighter for Hillsborough’s Fire Company No. 2 and has developed many great relationships with other firefighters over the past 12 years of coming to the fire department.
One of those firefighters was Hillsborough resident William “Billy” Shaffer, who worked for the fire department for 34 years and assumed the role of chief firefighter from 2018-2019.
Patti called Shaffer his “mentor.” The elder firefighter took Patti under his wing and showed him all the things firefighters needed to know how to do in order to help others.
Shaffer unfortunately passed away in the line of duty last summer on July 14, 2021, at the age of 53. At the time of his death, Shaffer was serving the role of assistant chief for the fire department.
Patti remembers having a dream the night of Shaffer’s death. The dream was him creating a memorial for his fallen mentor and also make it a place to honor fellow Hillsborough fighters that have lost their lives while trying to protect others.
“It’s honoring Billy (Shaffer) and it’s also a place where other firefighters can be remembered for working in the line of duty,” Patti said. “It brings awareness to people about what being a firefighter is all about and hopefully gets more people to come out (to be a firefighter).”
As a member of Boy Scout Troop 186, Patti thought his memorial for Shaffer would be the perfect project to do to earn his Eagle Scout status.
Patti ran the idea by members of his fire department and said that they were all “very supportive” of him doing the project.
Becoming an Eagle Scout has always been something Patti has wanted to achieve since his days as a cub scout in first grade.
He believes earning that rank will help in his future goals of becoming a police officer for the state of New Jersey.
“Not a lot of people can say they have that title (being an Eagle Scout),” Patti said. “It would definitely be very meaningful for me to become one.”
Patti said his Eagle Scout project to create his memorial in honor of Shaffer was approved this summer. He is currently waiting on the parts to come in the next few months to begin working on it.
The firefighter memorial will be held on display at the Hillsborough Municipal Complex. A statue of a firefighter will be placed on a three-foot gray pedestal with Shaffer’s name engraved in the center of it and on the helmet that will be placed on top of the statue.
In addition to the parts being ordered for the memorial, Patti is seeking donations to raise funds to buy more materials needed to finish making the memorial. Patti has started up a GoFundMe Page for the cause and is hoping to raise around $11,500.
On Sept. 17-18 , Patti took his fundraising efforts on the road by attending the 2022 New Jersey Firemen’s Convention in Wildwood, where he said he raised around $1,200 for the memorial.
Any money left over from Patti’s fundraiser will go towards the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation.
The ultimate goal for Patti is to have the firefighter memorial all finished by the two-year anniversary of Shaffer’s death, and have it be a part of a special celebration to honor his fallen mentor.
“I think it (The William “Billy” Shaffer Memorial) will be a symbol for everyone to never forget what he did and that he did something he loved,” Patti said.
To place a donation towards the William “Billy” Shaffer Memorial, visit Patti’s GoFundMe Page https://www.gofundme.com/f/bill-shaffer-memorial?utm_medium=referral&utm_source=unknown&utm_campaign=comms_s76b+bill-shaffer-memorial