Diocesan News

Bishop Brennan, Cardinal Dolan Remember Queens Firefighter

By Tablet Staff

ISLIP, NEW YORK — The FDNY and the city said a final farewell this week to a fallen firefighter who died on a day after after battling a house fire in Far Rockaway.

The wake for firefighter Jesse Gerhard took place Tuesday, Feb. 22, at Frederick J. Chapey & Sons Funeral Home in Islip, N.Y. Members of the FDNY had lined the street outside the funeral home and saluted as Gerhard’s casket was carried inside on Friday, Feb. 18.

At press time his funeral service was scheduled for noon Wednesday, Feb. 23, at St. Patrick’s Church in Bay Shore, N.Y. 

Msgr. Jamie Gigantiello, who was recently named an FDNY chaplain, was set to officiate at the funeral service. According to Msgr. Gigantiello, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of the Archdiocese of New York and Bishop Robert Brennan of the Diocese of Brooklyn were both expected to be in attendance.

Msgr. Gigantiello said the FDNY would be there to assist the late firefighter’s grieving family. “The Chaplain Service provides a strong support system for the families of fallen heroes, including firefighter Gerhard’s family,” he added.

Gerhard suffered a medical emergency while on duty in his firehouse — Ladder Company 134 in Far Rockaway, Queens — on Feb. 16 and was transported to St. John’s Episcopal Hospital, where he was later pronounced dead, an FDNY spokesperson said.

Gerhard, 33, a seven-year veteran of the FDNY, had helped battle a two-alarm fire in a Far Rockaway house the previous day.

An autopsy by the city medical examiner will determine his exact cause of death and whether it was related to the previous afternoon’s fire.

“Firefighter Jesse Gerhard dreamed of being a firefighter his entire life; and he lived that dream, bravely serving the residents of Queens by battling fires and rescuing New Yorkers from harm,” Mayor Eric Adams said. “The heartbreaking loss of this brave young man who was so committed to saving others is a painful reminder of the dangerous and difficult work New York City firefighters do every single day.”

Adams ordered all flags at municipal buildings to fly at half-staff in tribute to Gerhard.

Firefighter Gerhard was appointed to the FDNY as an Emergency Medical Technician in July, 2014 and was first assigned to Station 10 in Manhattan. He later served at Station 47 in Far Rockaway.

He entered the Fire Academy in December 2017 and, after graduating in April 2018, was first assigned as a firefighter to Engine Company 264 in Far Rockaway. In March 2020, he transferred to Ladder 34, located in the same firehouse as Engine 264. He was honored for bravery once in his career.

“As a firefighter and an EMT, Jesse Gerhard served our city with incredible courage and valor, always rushing into danger and risking his life to save others,” said Acting Fire Commissioner Laura Kavanagh, who took command of the department on Feb. 16 after the retirement of ex-Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro.

In addition to his FDNY service, Gerhard, who was a resident of Long Beach, N.Y., served as a volunteer firefighter in Islip, N.Y.

The fallen firefighter showed how he lived his life of helping others by donating his organs. 

“This generous gift could change the lives of as many as 50 to 75 people, including those in need of the gift of sight as well as burn victims, dialysis patients (and) patients with musculoskeletal conditions,” said Leonard Achan, president and CEO of LiveOnNY, a designated organ procurement organization.

“The guy lived and breathed to be a firefighter, to help others,” said colleague Carl Kretkowski outside the Far Rockaway firehouse. “And even in death, he’s helping others. It doesn’t surprise me. It doesn’t surprise any of these guys here.”

Firefighter Gerhard is the 1,156th member of the FDNY to die in the line of duty. He is survived by his parents, his brother and sister-in-law.