Devoted to faith, family and firefighting HD: FDNY honors another fallen brother

George DiPasquale, who died Sept. 11, is fondly remembered at a memorial service

Saturday, November 09, 2002


Even these 14 months later, days like these are poignant.

It's when a person like George DiPasquale is thought of -- and not only by those who think of him everyday -- that it becomes easy to understand why the words "September 11" will always mean something around here.

DiPasquale, who was 33 when he was killed in the attacks on the World Trade Center, was thought of and prayed for during a service yesterday morning in the Harmon Home for Funerals, West Brighton. He was a devoted man, and his devotions were faith, family and firefighting.

"The loss of George has been a loss to all of us," said Firefighter Darren Harkins, who works in DiPasquale's old company, Ladder Co. 2.

A 6-foot-5, seven-year veteran of the Fire Department, the Elm Park resident was nicknamed "Holy Man" in his firehouse because of his powerful faith. It wasn't the only thing in his life he kept close to his heart.

"What do I know about George? I know sacrifice, courage, altruism, kindness, compassion," said his brother, John Howell.

It was a humble and straightforward ceremony for a humble man, attended by dozens of family members, fellow worshipers from the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses in Mariners Harbor, the mayor and the fire commissioner. They all spoke of a man who was thorough and intelligent, and loved teaching something new to anyone.

"A very balanced man," was how his brother-in-law, Michael Mattei, described him. Mattei was the best man when his sister, Melissa, married DiPasquale.

"No matter what assignment he had, George treated it like it was the most important thing in the world," he said.

Whether it was taking a trip to Costco to replenish his firehouse's food supplies or studying for the lieutenant's exam -- which he was scheduled to take place last October -- DiPasquale was diligent.

He was also the helper and a well-trained firefighter.

"Anyone who knew George knew he enriched their lives," said his father-in-law, Michael Mattei.

Through all the crying and remembrance of yesterday's service, there was an underlying tone that everyone should look to the future, and be thankful for their memories of DiPasquale. His greatest contribution to the future is his 3-year-old daughter, Georgia Rose, who a lot of people just call George now.

"There's nothing we can do about the past," the mayor said. "In the end, it is the future for George [DiPasquale's daughter] that we must work for."

After the service, two lines of saluting firefighters stood along the sidewalk in front of the funeral home, waiting to guide DiPasquale's casket onto the back of a fire truck. A police helicopter flew above Forest Avenue, low enough that a breeze rushed through everyone's hair.

Dozens more firefighters stood across the street, the mayor standing among them. He had also spoken about the current Fire Department, and how it must keep going.

As the casket was about to enter the sun-lit street, some of the firefighters in the group started running. Ladder Co. 78 had a call. Their truck took off down Forest Avenue and kept going until the sound of its siren disappeared.

Ryan Lillis covers police, fire and criminal court issues for the Staten Island Advance. He may be reached at