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Lost firefighter honored on 31st birthday

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On what would have been his 31st birthday, family and friends of Firefighter Edward “Teddy” White celebrated his life in a memorial mass Friday at St. Joseph’s Church in Astoria, honoring a hero who lost his life Sept. 11.

White, the eldest brother in a family of five children, was a husband and father whose perennially casual attire reflected his love for the simple things in life.

“I will always picture you in a baseball cap, T-shirt and shorts, no matter what the weather,” his wife Jennifer White said in her eulogy, when she thanked “the people who shaped Teddy’s life.”

His fellow firefighters in Bedford-Stuyvesant’s Engine 230, for instance, “helped make Teddy a better eater and an even better cook,” Jennifer White told them. “You inspired him to love his job.”

A 1998 graduate of the Fire Academy, Teddy White was a firefighter who hated heights.

Although he painted houses part time with buddies from the Fire Department, White’s trepidation about climbing a ladder proved to be his biggest obstacle when he requested a raise from his boss Danny Connolly, another firefighter.

“Teddy, when you can work off a ladder that reaches higher than the first-floor window, then you’ll get a raise,” Connolly recalled telling him.

But like hundreds of other firefighters, White responded to the crash of two planes into the World Trade Center without regard to his own fears.

Connolly, who was not on duty that day, remembered calling the firehouse shortly after the second plane struck and speaking on the phone with White.

“Teddy responded to the Twin Towers that day knowing he was responding to the ultimate job,” Connolly said.

For those who knew White, the idea that he would risk everything to save others was consistent with the way he always behaved.

“There was nothing this man wouldn’t do for you, no questions asked,” said Andrew Hopkins, his best friend since childhood.

Although family and friends waited until White’s birthday to hold a memorial — about 4 1/2 months after he was first missing in the rubble of the Twin Towers — the passage of time did little to relieve their grief.

“All your friends miss you,” Hopkins said. “It’s just not the same anymore.”

But for his wife Jennifer, Teddy White got a chance to say goodbye in his own simple way. On Sept. 10, he went out for a day with their baby daughter, Taylor, buying her a pair of sneakers and treating her to her favorite meal — pizza.

Billy White, the youngest of the firefighter’s four siblings, shared his memories in rhyming verse.

“Teddy, you lost your life at Ground Zero,” he said, “but I want you to know, you will always be my hero.”

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

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