Family in Fire Department
lthough Stephen J. Bates liked the solitude of athletic competitions like running, swimming and bicycling, he was a team player. Period. That was why he worked for 18 years as a New York City firefighter. The lieutenant liked the way firefighters relied on one another while sticking to their vows to save lives and put out fires.
Most of all, Lieutenant Bates liked the automatic brotherhood of the job. It gave him the family he always wanted. His mother died when he was 15, and he was estranged from his father, said his girlfriend, Joan Puwalski. He frequently took family- style dinners with the firefighters at his stationhouse, Engine Company 235 in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. He liked cooking family dinners for the gang; sauerbraten was his best dish.
The other members of his family were two big dogs who lived in the home that he shared with Ms. Puwalski in Glendale, Queens: Samantha, 8, a 105-pound yellow Laborador retriever, and Norton, 8, an 85- pound mutt.
"He called them his babies," Ms. Puwalski said. "Sometimes the four of us would sleep together in our queen-size bed." That was a squeeze, considering that Lieutenant Bates, 42, was a big man, standing exactly 6 feet and weighing 235 pounds.
Profile published in THE NEW YORK TIMES on November 3, 2001.