Former New York firefighter Charles "Chuck" Jones III was remembered Saturday as a brave man who risked his life for family and strangers during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
"Many are angered or saddened by the [death of the] man we cherished," the Rev. Brian Ingram told the packed congregation at the funeral Mass in Sayville. "Many of you feel cheated, robbed of a person you admired. We know every living thing does die."
Ingram said Jones, 50, gave his life for family, friends, neighbors and strangers so their lives could be richer.
Jones was among those who pushed toward the fallen during the 9/11 attacks. He spent months on the cleanup and his decision to go there demonstrates the character of his Irish heart, Ingram said.
According to the fundraising website GiveForward, Jones was diagnosed in June with esophageal cancer. He had been an active member of FDNY Ladder Company 165 in St. Albans for more than 20 years. Before joining the FDNY, he had been a New York City police officer. He was also an active volunteer firefighter on Long Island, the website indicated.
FDNY spokesman Jim Long said Jones' passing is "being viewed as a World Trade Center-related death," as is that of FDNY Lt. Marty Fullam, whose funeral was held Saturday on Staten Island. The New York-based Uniformed Fire Officer Association reported that Fullam died Monday of lung disease.
Last month, AnneMarie Bowmann, senior vice president of the FealGood Foundation, which lobbied Washington to approve the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, said more than 1,100 first responders have died since the attacks.
During the service for Jones, a friend told a story about how they got wet while using a boat to travel to Fire Island and set a fire to dry off. Police officers soon arrived. "Chuck didn't know you couldn't start a fire on Fire Island," the friend said.
In an interview, friend Susan Keane, 43, of Sayville, said she will miss Jones' smile and sense of humor.
Before the funeral, hundreds of people gathered in front of the church, as a police vehicle and three fire trucks escorted Jones to the church.
Rich Pierce said in an interview he knew Jones through the Sayville 9-year-old youth football team, which Jones coached. "He was a great, great guy who cared about the team. He taught them how to play the right way and didn't care about winning or losing," said Pierce, 45, of Sayville. "He was a good coach, but better man," he said.
Jones, who was buried at the parish cemetery, is survived by his wife, Leigh Anne, and their three children: Andrew, Adam, and Natalie.