They stood, three-deep, along Lafayette St., wearing their dress blues, their thin white cotton gloves and somber expressions. They were awaiting the inevitable command. And when it came, more than 1,000 firefighters from across the state and as far away as Texas and Tennessee snapped to attention and raised their right arms in salute.
The long, mournful goodbye those firefighters had come to Saugerties to say to their brother, Capt. Jack Rose of the Mount Marion Fire District, had begun.
Rose died a few days before Christmas doing what he loved: fighting fires.
Rose and his fellow firefighters had been called out on mutual aid to a house fire at 11 Fel Qui Rd. in Centerville. Flames were reported coming from the building’s first floor; a team of firefighters, including Rose, were detailed 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. Continued efforts at Health Alliance Hospital’s Broadway campus failed to revive him.
Jack Rose was 19 years old. The cause of his death is still under investigation.
Shortly after 11 a.m. on Monday, pallbearers took the casket bearing Rose’s body from the Seamon-Wilsey Funeral Home and delivered it to the waiting hands and shoulders of six Mount Marion firefighters. The men carefully placed the casket, draped in Mount Marion’s colors, on the open deck of the district’s Engine 1. The shoulders of one of those men shook in a quick, silent sob of sorrow as he helped place the casket on the truck bed.
The deep silence that accompanied the exchange was finally broken by the piercing skirl of bagpipes; pipers from several fire companies, including Newburgh, Westchester County and Rockland County began their stately parade. Within minutes, fire engines lining Lafayette had fired up their engines and slowly made their way down John Street, on their way to the Rose family’s home.
Kathy Millert lives around the block from the funeral home. She’d made and planted a sign on her front lawn.
“It says rest in peace, Captain Jack,” she said. “This is such a small community, you can’t help but be touched by what happened.”
A blustery wind blew the dry, dead leaves, remnants of what had been a glorious autumn at the feet of neighbors who lined Lafayette and John and Partition streets. Winter was late arriving this year, but the gray-blue skies and dim, distant sun seemed a perfect reflection of the mood the funeral cortege delivered to the neighborhood.
Several miles down Rt. 212, cars and fire equipment jammed the parking lot of St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church. Inside, friends and family and fellow firefighters filled the nave. Father Chris Berean urged his listeners not to give up hope in the face of such an inexplicable death.
Look at the young man’s death through the eyes of a young man, he said — eyes full of love and hope for the future.
“What a Christmas Jack is experiencing,” he said. “Think about showing up at Christmas, at the Son of God’s birthday party!
“I used to fear death,” he said, “but now I see it as being one day closer to the people I love.”
Berean said he knew Rose as a young boy, a student at St. Mary of the Snow school who routinely brought home report cards full of 96s and 97s.
He told of how, when he was passing out report cards, he’d tease young Jack, holding his report card above his head, asking why he hadn’t done better.
“I’m sorry, Father,” the boy would say. “I’ll do better.”
Berean smiled at the memory of the boy who could hardly have done better, but never quit trying.
Jack Rose’s brother, Matthew, spoke of being worried about his brother’s safety when he joined the department at the age of 16.
“But nothing in this world could stop you from doing what you loved,” he said.
Matthew concluded his brief remarks with this valedictory: “You’re a rock star and you deserve it. You’re our hero.”
Spencer Drakontaidis, Rose’s best friend, spoke directly to him, telling him to “rest easy.”
“We’ve got it covered down here, as you always used to say; ‘We’ll do it live.’”
Ishmael Rivera didn’t know Jack Rose. He’s a member of 97 Engine in the Bronx. All he had to know about Jack Rose was that he was a firefighter, and that he’d died in the line of duty.
“It’s a brotherhood thing, regardless of where you’re from. We’re all in this together.”