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Richard Kaplan, Jericho ‘firefighter to the end,’ dies at 80

Richard Kaplan, a former assistant fire chief who

Richard Kaplan, a former assistant fire chief who joined the Jericho Fire Department in 1966, died at the age of 80 on Jan. 23, 2017. In the 24 hours before he died, he responded to four emergencies, fire officials said. Credit: Family photo

He was a firefighter to the very end.

In the 24 hours before he died at age 80, Richard Kaplan of the Jericho Fire Department responded to four emergencies.

“The fire service was the biggest part of his life,” his son David, chief of the Melville Fire Department, said. “That was what he did when he wasn’t working. No golf or anything like that. It was fire and family, his kids and grandchildren.”

The Jericho Fire Department did not have precise records, but it appears Kaplan responded to more alarms than anyone in department history, according to John Lottes, past chief of the department.

Kaplan responded to about 48 percent of the department’s 1,000 fire and ambulance runs last year, Lottes said. “In this day and age, people don’t comprehend what that means.”

“For his status as a life, active member he was not required to respond to any,” Lotte said. “During his later years he was downgraded in his responsibilities by medical restrictions. It was kind of killing him. He was not doing the kind of stuff he wanted to do.”

Kaplan died at his Jericho home on Jan. 23 after answering four calls the day before, Lottes said. The family did not specify the cause of death.

“There is a big gap in the company now. He drove the [fire] truck, drove the ambulance. He was a card-carrying EMT. He was ‘Steady Eddie.’ It’s probably going to impact our alarm responses.”

Kaplan was born in Manhattan on Sept. 30, 1936. He graduated from William Howard Taft High School in the Bronx in 1953 and attended the University of Illinois before transferring to New York University, where he received his bachelor’s degree in business administration in 1958.

He met his future wife, Judy Kromash, in 1960 at the advertising agency where they both worked.

The couple moved to Jericho in 1965 and he joined the Jericho Fire Department the next year. He was elected to positions as lieutenant, captain and assistant chief, and was a commissioner of the Jericho Fire District from 1981 to 1988.

During his years in the department he responded to emergencies large and small. He dragged bodies from the cockpit of the Avianca flight that crashed into a hillside in Cove Neck in 1990, killing 73 of the 158 people aboard, Lottes said.

His son recalled the time his father was at the scene of a circus truck that struck an overpass, letting some of the animal run free.

As a reporter asked someone about reports of snakes on the loose, Kaplan slid a radio antenna up the leg of the reporter’s pants.

He retired from the financial services industry about 18 years ago and took a lot of trips. “He loved to travel. It seemed he was always on a vacation or planning one, five or six vacations a year, Las Vegas and Atlantic City, cruises several times a year,” David Kaplan said.

Kaplan is also survived by his wife and two other sons: Michael Kaplan of South Huntington, and Robert Kaplan of Syosset, who is a past chief of the Jericho and Syosset fire departments.

A funeral service was held Jan. 27 at Gutterman’s Funeral Home in Woodbury. Kaplan was interred at Beth David Cemetery in Elmont.

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