FDNY firefighter Keith Young didn’t ask questions when he traveled to Ground Zero after the 9/11 attacks.
He spent weeks sifting through rubble to search for bone fragments so surviving families could have closure, lifelong friend and fellow firefighter Lt. John T. Fee Sr. said.
“He felt like I did, that it was a calling,” Fee said.
Young, 53, died at his Wantagh home March 17 of 9/11-related synovial sarcoma, a rare form of cancer. He had retired in 2016, after nearly 18 years with the FDNY.
But “he had no regrets,” said Fee, who retired from the FDNY last year because of 9/11-related lung problems. “I’m sure he would do it tomorrow.”
Hundreds of firefighters and friends and family of Young packed into St. Frances de Chantal church in Wantagh on Saturday for Young’s funeral Mass, as hundreds more firefighters lined Wantagh Avenue outside.
Young’s daughters, Kaley, 24, and Keira, 14, and son Christian, 20, wore white, as did many other family members and friends. It was so the Mass was a celebration of Young’s life, as well as a funeral, said his longtime friend, Irene Tucker. She was the best friend of Young’s late wife, Elizabeth King Young, who died of breast cancer in 2012. With both parents gone, Kaley is left to raise her sister.
With Young’s death, at least 168 FDNY employees have now died of 9/11-related illnesses.
“Little did we know the 343 who died that day wouldn’t be the end . . . ,” FDNY Commissioner Daniel A. Nigro said outside the church. “We’ll be doing this for many years to come and we’ll still be there for the families well into the future, and for our members who got sick from their experience at the World Trade Center, their sacrifice.”
After the Mass, Fee presented a Ladder Company 158 helmet to Young’s children. The urn containing their father’s ashes sat on the back of a fire truck several feet away.
Fee, 56, of Massapequa, had served with Young in Company 158 in Springfield Gardens, Queens, and had known Young since they were in the same Freeport Boy Scout troop as kids. Young had for years been stationed in Brooklyn but requested a transfer so he could be closer to his family, Fee said. Young also was a volunteer with the Freeport Fire Department.
Tucker, 50, of Wantagh, said Keith and Elizabeth Young “absolutely adored each other. They truly were a love story. During her whole illness he never left her side.”
After his wife died, Keith Young devoted the remaining years of his life to his three children, she said.
“He was dedicated to them, loving them, being there for them,” she said. “He really just continued on what he and Beth started, with a broken heart.”
At the firehouse, Young often cooked the type of food that won him three Food Network competitions, on the shows “Chopped” and “Throwdown with Bobby Flay.”
“He was not only the best cook I ever worked with, he was the funniest dude I ever met,” Fee said. “He would put on a show. He was just so damn funny. You’d be sitting there and you’d get dinner and a show.”
Young studied culinary arts, earning an associate degree at Johnson & Wales University in Providence. He invented the Cup Board Pro cutting board and released the cookbook “Cooking with the Firehouse Chef.”
The time Young spent in the kitchen was about more than making tasty food, Kaley Young said.
“He brought everyone together with his food, with his humor,” she said. “He was always the life of the party. He just had a presence that made everyone want to gather around him.”