Imposing Yet Inviting
His name was Durrell V. Pearsall Jr., but everyone called him Bronko. At 6 feet 2, 285 pounds, Firefighter Pearsall could bench press 455 pounds as easily, said someone who witnessed the feat, as if "it was nothing."
"As soon as he walked into a room, everyone noticed," said Liam Flaherty, a fellow firefighter at Rescue Squad 4 in Queens. But while his facade was fierce, Firefighter Flaherty said, his smile "could warm a room right up."
Firefighter Pearsall had played offensive tackle for C. W. Post during college. He slimmed down to 230 pounds to take the firefighter's test but put the weight back on after he joined the department in 1993. He played tackle for the Fire Department's football team. "Bronko had just unbelievable power and strength," said John Szczech, a firefighter who roomed with Firefighter Pearsall in Hempstead, N.Y. He was fiercely proud of his Irish heritage. He played snare drum in the department's Emerald Society Pipes and Drums, and the band's logo was tattooed on his calf.
On his upper right arm — big as a billboard, some said — he had tattoed his family crest, pierced with the legend Death Before Shame in Gaelic. "And he certainly lived up to that," Firefighter Szczech said.
Profile published in THE NEW YORK TIMES on December 22, 2001.