FDNY Brothers Mourn The Hero Who Loved Life

Daily News Staff Writer

As the flag-draped coffin inched past the firehouse on Middagh St. in Brooklyn yesterday, a lone firefighter bowed his head in deference to a fallen brother who exhaled joy through music and lived every day as if it were the last.

"Tomorrow is promised to no one" was, in fact, one of the mottos preached by Firefighter Vernon Cherry, the 49-year-old father of three who taught his colleagues at Ladder 118 in Brooklyn Heights how to take pleasure in the simplest things.

"Vernon always wore a big smile, and he also had a great philosophy about life," Firefighter Jim McAlevey told a crowd of about 200 who attended Cherry's funeral Mass at Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

"Take a deep breath," Cherry once told McAlevey. "Now hold it. Do you feel any pain?"

"No," McAlevey replied. "So, it's all good," Cherry said with a smile.

Cherry, nicknamed Cowboy by colleagues because of his bold fire-truck driving style, was among four Ladder 118 firefighters photographed aboard a rig racing over the Brooklyn Bridge to the World Trade Center on Sept. 11