Firefighter Henry A. Miller Jr. had a lot to look forward to in his life. A longtime Massapequa resident and cancer survivor, he was to celebrate his 53rd birthday and seventh wedding anniversary with relatives and friends next month. After 28 years of service with downtown Brooklyn's Ladder 105, Miller was also considering retirement two years from now, finally yielding to repeated requests from his concerned wife.

But Miller was right across the bridge from the World Trade Center last Tuesday morning and, just as he did after the terrorist trade center bombing in 1993, drove one of the company's hook and ladder trucks to be with his colleagues among the first emergency personnel at the scene.

Miller never returned and is officially listed among the missing in last week's attack.

His relatives and friends want to remember him as the gentle and jovial fellow he was, a bulky man who loved the sea, surfing and scuba diving, but who mostly saw himself as a firefighter, always willing and ready to help.

Miller, whose father retired as a 38-year veteran of the department, had been injured in the line of duty before, including the time when he suffered serious smoke inhalation trying to rescue people after the 1993 bombing.

Miller was born in New York City and grew up in the Rosedale section of Queens. Although he started studies to become an accountant at Manhattan's City College, he soon decided he wanted to follow in his father's footsteps and become a firefighter.

He was of composed character, rarely raising his voice or losing his temper about anything, relatives and friends said, a trait that fit well with his devotion to help those in need.

But he was also a fun-loving Irishman who knew where to get the best pizza on Long Island and in New York City, and who loved practical jokes.

When Miller was diagnosed with cancer about eight years ago, he kept going with his work and life, eventually beating the disease. He and his wife, Diane, married seven years ago next month, and Miller was secretly preparing to commemorate the event. When Diane went through his belongings this past week, she found a folded receipt from the jeweler's store where he had purchased a gift for her. His birthday would have been on Oct. 18.

More than once, Miller had the opportunity to retire but couldn't see himself not helping people.

"He was a part of so many people's lives," said his stepson, 30-year-old Scott Freedman. "He taught me how to be a man, how to deal with this. He was always a wonderful father to me."

Miller's relatives include a daughter, Melissa Lansbury of Falls Church, Va.; his parents, Henry Sr. and Beatie of Rockaway Park, Queens; a granddaughter, Rachel, 18 months old; a brother, Wayne, of Far Rockaway, Queens, and sisters, Corrine Warnock of Rockaway Park and Janice Testa of Valley Stream.