A Battalion Chief With Several Attributes

December 16, 2001

After Edward Geraghty's memorial service, where he was promoted posthumously from battalion chief to deputy chief, his wife, Mary, was approached by several of his friends. "They said, 'I never knew he was a chief; he always told us he was a fireman,'" she said. "Because Eddie saw no difference. He managed firemen, but he was a fireman ... As he rose through the ranks, still, in his heart, he was a fireman."

But he was many other things, too. A marathon runner, a eucharistic minister, a coach, the organizer of a running club, an essential part of the "Adopt-a-Family" charitable program in his hometown of Rockville Centre. And, his wife said, the "most wonderful" husband to her, and father to his three boys, Connor, 14, James, 11, and Colin, 5.

"Anything Eddie did, he did it 150 percent," she said. "Mentally, physically and spiritually, he's the strongest person I know."

The 23-year veteran of the New York Fire Department received his bachelor's degree in business at St.John's University. Within a few months of graduation, however, he was in training to be a firefighter, like his father, retired New York Fire Department Capt. Jim Geraghty, and brothers, Capt. Steve Geraghty of Ladder 11 in Brooklyn, and firefighter Tim Geraghty of Squad 288 in Queens. Geraghty grew up in Valley Stream, and his mother, Norma, and father now live in Mount Sinai.

He also is survived by four sisters, Lynn Cannata, of Elmont, Janet Baronian, of Franklin Square, and Maureen Perez and Colleen Lopez, both of Arizona.

With Battalion 9, on Eighth Avenue and 48th Street in Manhattan, Geraghty was in charge of the probationary firefighting academy and co-authored "Back to Basics," a safety training course. In 1990, he saved three children from fires, in two rescues within a six-day period.

He never stopped being a firefighter, his wife said, recalling an incident on the way to the hospital when she was pregnant with Connor. They saw a restaurant on fire. "He went past the building, he had me go to a pay phone and call 911, and then he just ran into the building," his wife said. "I asked, 'Why did you drive past the building?' And he said, 'Because I wanted to make sure you were safe.'"

She takes some comfort in the knowledge that her husband was truly at peace with himself spiritually, his wife said.

"I really feel that if anyone was ready to meet his maker, it was Eddie," she said. Just in the last year, his faith had deepened, she said.

"Eddie was just always striving to be a better person, whether it was to be a better father, a better husband, a better firefighter," she said. "And he had achieved all of it."

At a time when he was focusing on his faith, he began administering the eucharist in church and in homes.

After several difficult episodes in the family's life - the death of his father-in-law and having 11-year-old James diagnosed with diabetes among them - "Eddie came out of it thanking God," his wife said.

"We realized that God is going to take care of us through this," she said. "Just like he's taking care of me now."

To her children, she said, "I don't speak of him in the past tense. He is. He'll always be the head of this household, the husband and the father. He's here. He set the foundation, and we're just moving forward."

-- Indrani Sen (Newsday)