Diocesan News

Firefighter Gerhard Remembered As a Carpenter, Bridge Builder, Dedicated Member of FDNY

“He was always there to help the department. The fire department was everything to him,” FDNY Chaplain Monsignor Jamie Gigantiello said of the late firefighter Jesse Gerhard. (Photo: FDNY)

PROSPECT HEIGHTS — Firefighter Jesse Gerhard was a talented carpenter who loved to build things and a man who had such a deep love for his country, friends and family said, that he proudly displayed the American flag.

A funeral service for Gerhard was held Feb 23 at  St. Patrick’s Church in Bay Shore, N.Y. with thousands of firefighters from across the country lining the road outside the church to pay their respects. Gerhard, 33, died Feb. 16 — a day after battling a blaze in Far Rockaway Queens.

Gerhard suffered a medical emergency while on duty in his firehouse — Ladder Company 134 in Far Rockaway —  and was transported to St. John’s Episcopal Hospital, where he was later pronounced dead, an FDNY spokesperson said. He had helped battle a two-alarm fire in a Far Rockaway house the previous afternoon.

An autopsy by the city medical examiner will determine his exact cause of death and whether it was related to his actions on the job the day before.

Inside the church, Mayor Eric Adams, Acting Fire Commissioner Laura Kavanagh and Bishop of Brooklyn Robert Brennan were all in attendance. Msgr. Jamie Gigantiello, who was recently named an FDNY chaplain, officiated.

In their eulogies, friends talked about Gerhard’s love of carpentry — a skill he learned from his father Bruce — his patriotism, as evidenced by the fact that he displayed the American flag everywhere he could, and his dedication to his job.

“Jesse always wanted to be a firefighter There was never a Plan B,” said fellow firefighter Michael Ormiston. 

Gerhard had a way of bringing people together, Ormiston said. “Speaking with the other senior members of firehouse, we all agreed Jesse was the bridge between senior members and the junior members. Because of that, we have become a closer and tighter firehouse,” he added.

His talent for carpentry was part of both his personal and professional lives. He built the table that currently stands in his fire house. His talents even extended to doing favors for friends. Ormiston recalled that when he had to cancel an out-of-town vacation because of the pandemic, Gerhard offered to construct a bar in his backyard so he could enjoy a stay-cation.

Gerhard originally joined 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 assigned as a firefighter to Engine Company 264 in Far Rockaway. In March 2020, he transferred to Ladder 134, located in the same firehouse as Engine 264. He was honored for bravery once in his seven-year career.

“Like so many members of the FDNY, Jesse didn’t characterize his job as work. He loved it,” Kavanagh said. “He was part of a special breed of human being — one that embraces public service, even in the face of great peril.”

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.

Mayor Adams praised Gerhard’s dedication to his duty. “So we know what Jesse represented. He was a man that could build anything — build anyone. He dedicated his life in doing so,” he added.

Gerhard’s organs were donated after his death and, according to Leonard Achan, president of LiveOnNY, as many as 75 people will benefit as a result. LiveOnNY is a non-profit organization that works to facilitate organ donations.  

Gerhard is survived by his parents, Bruce and Lynn, his brother Casey and sister-in-law Kristi.

At the funeral, Kristi Gerhard read the eulogy on behalf of her husband Casey, Jesse’s older brother.

“If there’s anything I’ve learned it is how precious every moment is. I wish I would have made more time. One more ski trip. One more night of beers. One more game,” she read.

Then, speaking directly to Jesse, she said: “I can’t explain how proud I was of you, how you lived out your dreams, that you inspired me every day.”