ROOKIE FIREFIGHTER DIED 'DOING WHAT HE LOVED'

By TODD VENEZIA


December 15, 2001 -- Just six weeks after he proudly reported to Manhattan's Engine Co. 23 for his first day as a full-fledged fireman, James Pappageorge died in the blazing wreckage of the World Trade Center.

Yesterday, hundreds of mourners gathered at the Transfiguration of Christ Greek Orthodox Church in Corona, Queens to remember the promising rookie's sacrifice and hail him as a loving father and a public servant obsessed with saving lives.

"He will always be remembered as a hero - a great hero, because that's what firefighters are," said his sister, Helen Pappageorge, an NYPD narcotics detective. "It's ironic he died doing what he loved."

Pappageorge, 29, who grew up on the streets of Corona, was remembered for his lifelong dedication to helping others.

"One Valentine's Day, I got a book that had questions to ask each other," said Pappageorge's fianc