At an age when most young men are still searching for their life’s path, Jack Rose had found his. He was a firefighter. A captain of the Mount Marion Fire Department. He was 19. He’d been a member of the department since he was 16. It was his life.
The news of Capt. Jack Rose’s death in a chimney fire the evening of Saturday, Dec. 19 hit the community he grew up in and served with a hammer-blow of disbelief and sorrow.
The skinny kid who’d been an “A” student at St. Mary of the Snow Elementary School, the shy altar server who always got things right, the young man who had graduated only last year from John A. Coleman High School, was gone. The skinny kid who looked even skinnier smiling at the camera from under his fire helmet had died doing what he loved best: fighting fires. Helping others. People who knew him said that was just the way he was.
Rose’s department was responding to a mutual aid call from the Centerville department to a house fire at 11 Fel Qui Rd. Flames were reported coming from the building’s first floor. A team of firefighters, including Rose, were dispatched to the basement to put out the blaze. Rose became separated from his team, but he was quickly located and taken from the basement.
“Once outside, Rose became unresponsive and firefighters initiated lifesaving measures,” a press release from the Mount Marion Fire District said.
Rose was taken by Diaz Ambulance at the scene to Health Alliance Hospital’s Broadway campus where continued efforts failed to revive him.
In a statement, Marion Fire Chief Dave Ayers said his department “is devastated over the loss of such a young life and a devoted member of the community… He was loved by all in the fire service who knew him.”
Neither Ayers nor any other firefighters could be reached to comment in the days following the tragedy. That’s understandable. Saugerties is a close-knit community, and the firefighters within it are closer-knit still. They’ve closed ranks to grieve.
Rose responded not only to Mount Marion calls, but as a village resident, he rode on fire calls with the Saugerties Fire Department out of the Partition St. firehouse. Three months ago, he joined the Diaz Ambulance service as an EMT.
“It’s difficult to lose such a young man, who was dedicated to his community,” said Mayor Bill Murphy. “All our fire companies are one family and we join with them in mourning the loss of Jack Rose. It’s a horrible loss for our community.”
“He always wanted to be a firefighter,” said Father Chris Berean of St. Mary of the Snow and St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church. “He was extremely bright, always bringing home grades in the 97, 98 range,” he said. “I used to tease him about those grades.”
“He was a shy little kid, but always on top of things, really respected. As an altar server, I could always count on him to get things right,” Berean said.
Christine Molinelli was principal at St. Mary of the Snow Elementary School for 17 years, until it was closed three years ago.
“He always wanted to be a fireman,” she recalled. “First, he wanted to go to California. Then he changed his mind and decided he’d be one in New York City.
“Everyone loved this kid. He was reverent. He liked to help other people. We were all devastated by his death.”
Molinelli said that even though the school was now closed and many of its teachers had scattered and moved on to other jobs, “Every one of them has been contacted and will be there” at Rose’s funeral service.
“They say the good die young, and it must be true,” she said. “Oh, he was going to go so far. He was going to make the world a better place.
“We will not forget him.”
An online fundraising page, gofundme.com/captainjackrose, has been started with the goal of raising $20,000 for Rose’s family. In just over a day, it was already three-quarters of the way there.
Funeral arrangements are being handled by Seamon-Wilsey Funeral Home of Saugerties. Visitation will be held Sunday, Dec. 27 at the funeral home on John St. from 2-4 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. The funeral service will be Monday, Dec. 28 at noon at St. John’s Roman Catholic Church, Rt. 212, Saugerties. That day, village and town offices will be closed in his memory.
The cause of both the fire and the death of Rose is under investigation by the Saugerties Police Department, the New York State Office of Fire Prevention and Control and the Ulster County Bureau of Cause and Origin.
– with additional reporting from Robert Ford