More than 1,000 people flocked to a Sayville church Thursday to pay tribute to 9/11 first responder Vincent R. Ungaro, a firefighter who headed a station in Brooklyn and won legions of admirers.
Hundreds of firefighters from the Bronx, Brooklyn and throughout Long Island lined Handsome Avenue to salute an FDNY truck that carried Ungaro’s body to St. Lawrence the Martyr Roman Catholic Church. Several hundred relatives and friends also attended the funeral Mass.
Ungaro, a three-decade veteran of the fire department who lived in Holbrook, died Saturday. He was 60.
“The New York City Fire Department is made up of very exceptional people,” said Donald Hayde, chief of the rescue battalion at Roosevelt Island who worked with Ungaro in the late 1980s and early 1990s. “Vinnie was head and shoulders above as a firefighter and more so as a kind and gentle human being.”
Firefighter Jake Dutton, who worked at Engine Company 235 in Bedford Stuyvesant, where Ungaro served as captain, said: “It doesn’t get much better than him. He was a role model. He was a leader. He was a family man. He took care of all of us like we were his own.”
Ungaro suffered from leukemia and had spoken publicly about the health problems many first responders developed after responding to the terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
At a public hearing in 2011 in West Islip, he said funds should be appropriated more quickly for first responders suffering from cancer and other serious ailments linked to their exposure at Ground Zero.
In his homily, the Rev. Brian Ingram, pastor of St. Lawrence, mentioned Ungaro’s ailing health.
“There’s no way to make sense of an otherwise robust and full-of-life 60-year-old finding that life ending after so many years of sickness and pain,” he said. “Some of you no doubt feel that you have been cheated. … Saying goodbye when it shouldn’t be time for goodbyes.”
But Ingram said Ungaro, a father of two, impacted hundreds of lives with his “integrity and bravery, and so much generosity and goodness of heart.”
“He was always there for other people,” the pastor said.
Ungaro’s son, also named Vincent, told mourners the family was “beyond humbled” by the support and “signs of respect” they have received from people who knew the firefighter.
“Dad touched so many lives” and demonstrated an “utmost class that was awe-inspiring,” the son said.
He said his father kept a positive attitude throughout his life, even after losing his own father at the age of 17, and throughout his illness.
“With Dad,” he said, “there were no bad times.”
Ungaro was buried at St. Charles Cemetery in Farmingdale.