ISLIP, N.Y. -- One of New York City's Bravest was being remembered Tuesday at a wake on Long Island.
Visitation was to continue later at night for FDNY Firefighter Jesse Gerhard, who collapsed and died last week less than two days after battling a fire.
Fellow firefighters stood at attention as Gerhard's family arrived at Chapey & Sons Funeral Home in Islip amid a sorrow-filled line of mourners. Inside, images of the beloved son, brother, uncle and brave firefighter filled the room as friends and colleagues said goodbye to a young man who made everyone laugh and was loved, CBS2's Carolyn Gusoff reported.
"It is extremely tragic. Jesse was a guy that stood out in the firehouse. Of every prominent member of the firehouse, his loss is going to leave a gaping hole," said Capt. Peter Hayden of Ladder Company 134.
"Quiet but funny. Hard worker. He just loved to be a fireman. He wanted to be a firefighter his whole life and there was no Plan B," Ladder 134's Carl Kretkowski added.
Gerhard was just 33 years old when he collapsed and died last week in his Far Rockaway firehouse from a still undetermined medical event. It was the day after he valiantly responded to a raging house fire and was tasked with ramming open an entry for firefighters.
"Injuries are not always just from fire, but very often heart attacks, heart disease, the stress of strain. I can't under-emphasize how truly strenuous this job is, and Jesse's tragic loss of life shows exactly that," Acting FDNY Commissioner Laura Kavanagh said.
Gerhard not only selflessly served New York City, he was also a volunteer fireman in his hometown of Islip, where he leaves behind heartbroken fellow volunteers who loved his sense of humor and generosity.
"He gave 100% to both sides," Hayden said.
In death, Gerhard continues to give as a tissue donor.
Gerhard is survived by his parents and a brother, who posted on Facebook, "It's not often the younger brother is the older brother's hero, but you were. We are broken. You dedicated your life to saving and helping others and we weren't able to save you."
The wake was to continue from 7-9 p.m.
A line of duty funeral will be held Wednesday at noon at St. Patrick's Roman Catholic Church in Bay Shore.
The family has asked, in lieu of flowers, that donations be made to "Fired up for a Cause," which spreads cancer awareness and prevention.
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