Nelson H. Finkelman, called a "fireman's fireman" by a family friend and colleague, has died of complications from a stroke, his family said Thursday.
Finkelman, who was 83, "served in ways too numerous to list," said a post on the Nassau County fire marshal's Facebook page.
Finkelman died Wednesday at Nassau University Medical Center. He was a former chief of the East Meadow Fire Department, Nassau fire marshal supervisor and fire service academy chief instructor.
"He became a leader in our company when suburbia was kind of growing up," said E.J. Brennan, 58, a friend since his 20s when he joined the East Meadow Fire Department. Brennan said he learned the fire service ropes from his friend, as well as "life lessons," observing the "accepting and very loving" way Finkelman raised his children.
Son Michael Finkelman, chairman of the board of the East Meadow fire commissioners, said his father would want to be remembered for his community service and for being "a good family man, a good neighbor, and a good friend." He'd also want to be remembered for being a founding member of the Nassau County Fire Fighters Burn Center Foundation, and serving on its board, he said.
Finkelman, born Feb. 11, 1930, in the Bronx, grew up in Borough Park, Brooklyn, and graduated from New Utrecht High School, his son said.
Early jobs included work as a stockbroker and selling products ranging from liquor to freezers, his son said. A veteran of the Navy who served in Korea, Finkelman joined the East Meadow firefighters in 1957 and went to work for Nassau County around 1973, his son said. He was also one of the first operators for the Nassau County fire communications, or Firecom, dispatch system.
He also enjoyed performing in community theater and was often asked to serve as master of ceremonies at various events, said his daughter, Amy Falter of Danbury, Conn., who called him "a man of many talents."
He retired in 1991, spending time fishing and traveling, and, at age 80, was certified as an emergency medical technician, his son and daughter said.
Finkelman also is survived by Gloria, his wife of 62 years; daughters Jody Ratner of East Meadow and Lori Finkelman of Dallas; and 11 grandchildren.
A service is planned for Friday at 11 a.m. at the East Meadow Fire Department, followed by burial at Mount Golda Cemetery, Huntington Station.