Jeanne Urquiza’s husband Ralph, a Firefighter III with the LAFD, loved his job. His station was in the thick of the Rodney King riots in the early-’90s, responding to emergencies of all kinds during the unrest. And when the massive Northridge quake in 1994 toppled buildings and bridges, he famously helped extract a man trapped in a collapsed parking structure. The rescue earned him the Medal of Valor.
When he died unexpectedly in 2009, Jeanne discovered the lengths to which the Widows, Orphans & Disabled Firemen’s Fund and its governing body, the Los Angeles Firemen’s Relief Association, would go for the families of firefighters.
The process to officially determine that her husband’s death was duty-related took a year, which delayed Jeanne’s ability to receive his pension payments. During that time, representatives from the organization assisted her with paperwork and bills, while also acting as an advocate for the Urquiza family with the city.
Jeanne said, “It’s a great organization to know that somebody’s there.” Now, she gives back to the charity by volunteering at fundraising events.
Her favorite event is the LAFD Invitational golf tournament. “The firemen are really excited to go out there, hit the balls and josh around with each other,” she said. “It’s just a really fun day.”
At the annual tournament, she’s usually stationed at one of the special holes where golfers can win incredible prizes if they pull off a hole-in-one. She makes sure all players get their turn and mark their score down appropriately. “You’ve got to make sure those firemen are honest,” she joked.
She also enjoys meeting others who give their time. “I’ve met some wonderful volunteers through these events,” she said, “and gotten to know firefighter families that I hadn’t known previously.”
For her, the Widows, Orphans & Disabled Firemen’s Fund remains an important part of her life and the memory of her husband. She said, “Sometimes, there are hardships that come along and the [charity] is always there for us to get the help that we need to move past those hardships and keep going.”
If you’d like to volunteer like Jeanne, please sign up online.
By David Vienna