Family, friends and fellow firefighters gathered at St. Philip Neri Church in Northport on Monday to say goodbye and pay respects to FDNY veteran Christopher Viviano, who was remembered as a "gentle giant," for his strength and compassion for others.

"If you got a flat tire, he was the guy that said "hey, i’ll hold up the car, you change the flat," that was the kind of guy he was," said retired FDNY firefighter George Johnson, who worked with Viviano for three years in Ladder Company 157 in Brooklyn. "He was a great man. I’m deeply hurt by this."

Viviano, a 22-year veteran of the FDNY who grew up in Northport but lived in Connecticut, died on Jan. 19 from complications of COVID-19 . He was 53.

He was the 16th member of the FDNY and second active firefighter to die from the virus, according to the fire department.

FDNY veteran Christopher Viviano

FDNY veteran Christopher Viviano Credit: FDNY

Several hundred firefighters lined Main Street in Northport to honor Viviano, a father of three, before and after a Mass at St. Philip Neri Church. During a eulogy, his friend and colleague, John Newbauer joked about Viviano’s physical strength, but also praised his commitment to his job and his family.

"He was the perfect example of a man." Newbauer said. "It’s such an honor being here and speaking about this guy. I’m so grateful to have known him."

After the ceremony, Viviano’s coffin was brought outside to a sea of firefighters, who saluted their former colleague. One of his sons was given his dad’s helmet, shortly before the coffin was put on a Ladder 157 truck and transported to St. Philip Neri Cemetery.

Retired firefighter Ron Darcy, who worked with Viviano for almost a decade, said Viviano was a reassuring presence.

"When I went into work and you saw this guy, you would say I know I’m going to be safe tonight because if anything goes wrong, that’s the guy you want with you," Darcy said. "What an empty loss."

Viviano joined the FDNY in August 1999 and was assigned to Ladder Company 157. During his long career, he was cited once for bravery. FDNY Commissioner Daniel A. Nigro said Viviano was a well-respected firefighter from an active company.

"By the outpouring here of family friends and members of the department you can see how beloved he was," Nigro said. "Only 53 years old and another tragedy of this COVID pandemic that has been haunting us for almost two years now.

With Cecilia Dowd

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