John Reilly, born on July 12, 1890, in Gloucester City, New Jersey, was the second of three children to Joseph J. Reilly and his wife. Sadly, his mother passed away in the mid-1890s, and Joseph J. Reilly remarried around 1897, having two more children. In 1900, the Reilly family resided at 915 Carpenter Street, where Joseph worked as a telegraph operator.
By 1910, John Reilly had left home to pursue his own path. Around 1914, he had moved to South Camden and was living at 1727 South 4th Street. When he registered for the draft on June 5, 1917, he was still residing at the same address and working as a truck driver at the New York Shipbuilding Corporation shipyards. However, he was unmarried at the time. By January 10, 1920, John Reilly had married Hazel, and they were renting an apartment at 569 Mickle Street.
During the early 1920s, John Reilly served in the United States Navy, while his wife resided in Freehold, New Jersey. He returned to Camden in the spring of 1924 and joined the Camden Fire Department. During this time, he boarded at 931 Pearl Street, the residence of his fellow fireman Albert Raeuber. The Raeuber family had lived at 933 Pearl Street since the 1890s. When not on duty, John Reilly focused on finding a permanent home for himself and his wife in Camden.
Tragically, on January 19, 1925, Fireman John Reilly of Engine Company 4 made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty. Responding to a phone alarm reporting an oil stove fire at 924 North 2nd Street, near North 2nd and State Streets in North Camden, Engine 4 arrived at the scene around 9:30 P.M. John Reilly and Albert Raeuber carried a large copper portable extinguisher to the second floor of the residence above Max Koch’s grocery store. They quickly extinguished the flames and closed the nozzle. However, the fire extinguisher unexpectedly exploded, killing one of the firefighters. John Reilly, struck in the face by fragments, was killed instantly, while Albert Raeuber sustained significant lacerations and bruises, requiring an overnight admission at Cooper Hospital.
John Reilly, a probationary firefighter, had been a member of the department for only seven months at the time of his tragic death. During his brief tenure, he had become well-liked among the members and neighbors of Engine Company 4.