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For a man who kept largely to himself and spoke only when he had something to say, firefighter Matthew Garvey was able to convey volumes with the sudden flash of a gesture.
Garvey, 37, a six-year Fire Department veteran and member of the Marine Corps, died Sept. 11 while attempting to rescue victims escaping the burning World Trade Center.
His funeral was held Tuesday morning at St. Teresas Roman Catholic Church in Woodside, the site of his baptism and his schooling. Borough President Claire Shulman, City Councilman Walter McCaffrey (D-Woodside), state Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan (D-Ridgewood) and hundreds of mourners gathered to pay their respects to the fallen firefighter from Brooklyns Squad 1.
He was noted for his smile, or rather his smirk, an understated hint of emotion worth a thousand unwritten words, said a fellow U.S. Marine Corps Reservist.
Garveys tough spirit was reflected in his hands, which he frequently shaped into a thumbs-up position to affirm his longtime credo, no guts, no glory.
His signature smirk bespoke of everything he thought but didnt say, which was much for a man known to read five books at once, a firefighter who studied guitar and martial arts and trained for marathons in his spare time.
But the thumbs-up symbol was a clear sign of his dependability, the sense of surety that led his sixth-grade teacher to lean on him for classroom chores as readily as his subordinates in the Marine Corps turned to him for advice years later.
That dependability was also what led to his loss as he rushed to save lives at the World Trade Center.
The photo staring from the front of his funeral program showed a uniformed Garvey standing with a firehose resting on his right shoulder, his gloved left thumb pointed upward and his mouth shaped into that unmistakable smirk.
Id like to think that thats how he looks today, with a smile on his face and a thumbs up, said Monsignor Denis Herron, who led the ceremony.
Gerald Smyth, a fellow firefighter who shared Garveys passion for the outdoors, described his comrade as a man of few words who often would dig up an answer to questions no one else in the firehouse could solve.
Never one to cut corners, Garvey did away with the guidebook and performed his own research when he climbed a mountain with Smyth over the summer.
This is what life is all about, being outside. Its beautiful, Smyth recalled Garvey having said when the pair was enjoying an outdoor expedition together.
As someone who served in Operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield, where he earned a chest full of medals and ribbons, Garvey was the Marine we all wanted to be, noted Lt. Col. Lombardo, a battalion executive officer with the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve.
Sometimes Garveys smirk was a thinly veiled mask hiding a tendency to tell tall tales for instance, that he defeated several Iraqi companies singlehandedly in the Gulf War, one of many stories that earned him an amusing sort of celebrity among the younger recruits.
At other times, it was more designed to intimidate, when the edges of his mouth turned down into something fiercer as he led Marines by example in rigorous training exercises.
But it was always understated, like Garvey himself.
As Lombardo saw it, the smirk was beautiful, the equivalent of a belly laugh for you and I.
Garvey leaves behind his mother Frances, brother Christopher, sister-in-law Donna, a niece, a nephew, and several cousins.
Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 154.
©2001 Community Newspaper Group
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