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Rockville Centre Fire Department pays tribute to members who lost their lives

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On Sunday, the Rockville Centre Fire Department held its annual memorial service for members who have died over the past year. Mayor Francis Murray, Deputy Mayor Kathy Baxley, Trustee Nancy Howard, Trustee Emilio Grillo, Trustee Michael Sepe and residents joined Chief Eric Burel and the RVCFD at Firemans Memorial Park to pay respect to the individuals who put the needs of others before their own. 

A total of five members have died since last October: Honorary Chief Harold Buck, Honorary Chief Charles F. Kee, Honorary Chief John Easterman, honorary member Jack McKeon and Chief Charles W. Jaeger.

Kee served the department as a member of Reliance Hose Company No. 3 for 56 years, from April 16, 1963, until he died on Oct. 27, 2019. During his tenure with the department, he served as financial secretary, recording secretary and as a member of various committees. According to Burel, Kee was a “cornerstone” on Sunday mornings.

“Sitting at the same table telling a quick-witted joke, or story about the ‘good ole days,’ he would talk about his work with NYPD or the firehouse and share his life experiences,” Burel said. “During the holiday season Charlie always took pride and enjoyment in his role as Santa Claus giving out gifts to the children at our annual children’s holiday party.”

Kee became honorary chief in 2014 for his “unending dedication to the department,” according to Burel, and in 2015, he was awarded the Lynbrook Elks Firefighter of the Year.

Buck also died last October after 55 years of service to the department. He joined the Alert Engine and Hose Co. No. 2 on Dec. 20, 1964, and held various positions over the years, including as president and treasurer of the Rockville Centre Fire Department Benevolent Association.

“Buck dedicated his life to his family and his community,” Burel said. “We have lost a friend and a mentor.”

Easterman died on April 12 after 60 years of service. “Jack was always there to lend a hand or simply be a friend,” Burel said. “He was there for friends in need, he was there to share a laugh.”

McKeon served the fire department for 10 years, from January 2010 until his death on April 24. He became an honorary member after his retirement from the Rockville Centre Police Department, where he served as police commissioner for 19 years, an honor that has only been awarded once in the history of the department, according to Burel.

“Commissioner McKeon was a tremendous supporter of the Village of Rockville Centre and the Rockville Centre Fire Department,” Burel said. “Jack always had the RVCFD’s back and would think nothing of going above and beyond to help when needed. Jack was an extraordinary person who truly made the village a better place because of who he was and all he gave of himself.”

Jaeger died on Sept. 4 after 51 years of service to the department. He joined the Alert Engine Co. No. 2 on Sept. 16, 1969, and held various titles over the years, including as Chief of the department from 1993 to 1995.

“He helped shape the department we now know today,” Burel said. “Chief Charlie built friendships and strengthened the department’s status, not only within the Battalion, but the entire county as well. He leaves a strong legacy and we are all better for having known him.”

Roses were given to families of the deceased, and prayers were said by local clergy members.

“The Village of Rockville Centre thanks these brave individuals for their dedicated service,” Murray said, “and keeping Rockville Centre safe.”