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Middle Village remembers spirited fireman

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When hundreds gathered on an unseasonably warm November morning to celebrate the life of Firefighter Vincent Morello, who was lost Sept. 11 in the line of duty, his presence could be felt in everything from his brother’s playful jibes to the quoting of Bruce Springsteen.

But his father John Morello knew better than to imagine his son sitting in a stuffy church Friday morning on such a perfect golf day.

When he stepped outside and felt the warm breeze, he could only imagine Vincent “blowing off this service for an early tee-time someplace.”

But his son was not on the green because his golf buddies were assembled inside Trinity Lutheran Church in Middle Village Friday to attend a holy communion in his honor.

Vincent Morello had already finished his nighttime tour with Manhattan’s Engine Co. 283 when he hopped on a rig responding to the World Trade Center disaster Sept. 11. His is among the 343 firefighters who died or remain missing in the skyscrapers’ rubble.

Since he was not in the church to offer his own sarcastic quips, Vincent Morello’s friends and family filled them in on their own.

“Vinnie would say right now, ‘Are you going to thank people all day or are you going to talk about me?’” his brother Marc Morello said during his eulogy. “I would tell him to shut up.”

The 34-year-old firefighter entered the force in January 2000 after devoting 12 years to the FDNY as a mechanic on Randalls Island, taking an enormous pay-cut in the process.

He joined a long line of family members who served in the Fire Department, including his father — a retired 34-year veteran — his brother and his mother, a longtime civilian employee.

But Vincent Morello, a notoriously independent thinker, donned his uniform out of personal conviction rather than family tradition.

“My brother as he got older got more opinionated,” Marc Morello recalled.

Sometimes he was adamant about little things — for instance, when he argued recently with his brother over Swiss cheese.

At other times, however, he put forth an opinion with such conviction his family had no way to respond.

Such was the case when his father first suggested he become a firefighter over a decade ago.

“Dad, when a building is on fire, all of the smart people — they run out,” the 21-year-old Vincent Morello said brusquely. His father knew better than to ask again.

But even his most assured stances could soften with time, and before his 30th birthday, Vincent Morello turned around and announced he had decided to exchange his tool box for the fireman’s gear.

A devoted father and husband, he married his wife Debi at age 23 after having dated her for six years. Although he told his “completely dumbfounded” father the ceremony would be a year after the engagement, he and his wife were on the beach for their honeymoon within five months.

“Vincent had found a perfect partner in crime — someone with as little tolerance for patience as he had,” John Morello said.

With the birth of his son Justin, Morello found a “brand-new buddy.” His daughter Paige, born a few years later, managed to “wind that huge hulking body of his completely around her little finger,” John Morello recalled.

Beyond his family he kept up close friendships with a group of men who enjoyed “10 years of male bonding out in the Hamptons,” as friend John Curry put it. They got together for daytime golf matches and late-night poker games, for barbecues and New Year’s Eve parties at Durow’s restaurant on Myrtle Avenue.

Although they all realized such get-togethers would never be the same without Morello, they will continue nonetheless with the spirit of their friend in their hearts.

“Bonding weekend doesn’t change,” Marc Morello told their buddies at the end of his eulogy.

And he meant it. Before the ceremony ended, the family invited all the guests to dine with them at Durow’s.

Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 154.

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