Though Martin Abrams never served as an officer of the Merrick Fire Department, he was someone younger volunteers looked up to. He led by example, never complained and strived to do the right thing, according to ex-chief Paul Waterman.
For 53 years, Abrams’s calming influence inspired his fellow firefighters to do the job with respect and regard for themselves and their community, solidifying a legacy that will live on.
Abrams died at home on Aug. 7. He was 86.
Abrams lived in Merrick for the past 60 years. He moved to the community from Lakeview-West Hempstead shortly after he and his wife, Agnes, were married in 1954 — he proposed to her three months after meeting her. “He’s irreplaceable,” she said. “The years went so fast with all the amazing times we had together. He was an absolutely fantastic person.”
The couple raised four children — Theresa, Tina, Martin Jr. and Tami — in their home on Lindgren Street. Tami once asked her mother why there was a nine-year age gap between her and Martin Jr., to which Abrams replied, “‘We found you in a cabbage patch,’” Agnes recalled. “He had a good sense of humor.”
At 33, Abrams joined Merrick’s Hook and Ladder Co. 1 up the street because “he just felt that it was something he should do,” Agnes said. When he wasn’t fighting fires, he worked for the Town of Hempstead’s Sanitation Department.
Waterman, who was born into the fire service, recalled seeing Abrams at the firehouse when he hung out there as a child. Once Waterman joined the company, he and Abrams “rode the truck together many times.”
“Marty was a quiet, unassuming gentleman — you never heard a bad word out of him,” Waterman said. “He loved being a fireman, and he loved helping the community.”
Tina Van Well, Abrams’s second-oldest child, said she remembers watching her father train at the Nassau County Fire Service Academy in Old Bethpage. “We’d watch him run into burning buildings with all the gear on, putting out fires,” she said. “It was interesting to watch because you realized they put their heart and soul into everything and never think twice about it.”
In 1996, after nearly 30 years of fighting fires, Abrams, then 62, moved over to the fire police so he could continue to contribute, Waterman said. Then, in 2017 — which marked his 50th year in the fire service — he was granted honorary captain status at the department’s installation dinner.
“His heart was to be [helpful] to other people — protecting and maintaining the community . . . meant a lot to him,” Agnes said. “The younger kids coming in now had the highest regard and respect for him.”
On the day he was laid to rest at Pinelawn Cemetery, firefighters stood outside MFD headquarters in full gear to salute Abrams one last time, Van Well said. “Guys in the department would say they don’t make people like him anymore,” she said of her father. “He always had a kind word to say and would give you the shirt off his back if he could.”
“People could take away how they should live their life from Marty,” Waterman said.
Abrams is also survived by 13 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Donations can be made in his honor to the Firemen’s Home (125 Harry Howard Ave., Hudson, N.Y. 12534), the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society or the Metropolitan Jewish Health System.