With bagpipers playing "America, the Beautiful," Firefighter Jose Antonio Guadalupe of Rochdale Village started his final journey. A grief-heavy gathering of more than 300 relatives and friends and columns of saluting firemen mourned his death Monday. Guadalupe was another victim of the World Trade Center attack of Sept. 11.
In a somber ceremony outside of Gilmores Funeral Home in St. Albans, Guadalupes casket, atop a fire truck, slowly moved down Linden Blvd. en route to Maple Grove Cemetery in Kew Gardens. It was followed by Fire Dept.s Emerald Society bagpipers.
Assembled firemen, including remaining members of Engine Company 54 in Midtown Manhattan, which lost Guadalupe and 14 others in its complement of 50 firefighters at the WTC disaster.
Moments earlier, they held their salute as taps sounded and the flags of the color guard rolled under the overcast sky. Borough President Claire Shulman, Deputy Mayor Rudy Washington and Maria Roman, special assistant to Gov. George E. Pataki, were among the mourners crowding the street.
The 37-year-old Guadalupe, a 10-year Fire Dept. veteran who drove a fire truck, leaves behind his wife Elise, his mother Rowena, who flew in for the funeral from Florida, and many other relatives and friends.
Guadalupe called "Tony" was described by several friends as a dedicated fireman who lived a vibrant life of action and introspection.
"Losing him hurts a lot," said long-time friend Steve Leland of Jamaica. "He was a sweet, generous person. He was a quiet guy. He tried to please people. He liked to read. He loved his job so much hed encourage people to take the Fire Dept. exam."
Wayne Patterson, Guadalupes cousin, told the gathering of mourners in the funeral home chapel, "Tony left us too soon. He will be missed as much as he will be loved."
He said Guadalupe and his companion firemen "were running into the path of danger while people were running away."
Patterson called the attack that caused the firefighters death, "a senseless act of cowardice and violence."
In speaking of Guadalupes personal life, he described the fireman, a graduate of August Martin High School in South Jamaica, as a talented artist and drew chuckles when he added, "He was great at graffiti."
Patterson called the deceased firefighter a passionate "cyclist, fresh water fishing enthusiast and thanks to the fire department a very good cook."
Patterson added, "Ill tell you what he was not: he was not a dancer. He was not a worry wart. He was not super organized."
"I will tell you what he was: he was a hero. And he will be missed as much as he was loved."
Barely holding back tears, Patterson said, "Theres no more seeing him. No more speaking to him. All we have now are our memories of him."
He asked mourners to put aside their biases and concluded his eulogy with an Arabic prayer, which he offered in that language. When finished, he translated its conclusion: "God is great. Praise to God."
Fire Company 54 Capt. Richardson mourned the loss of Guadalupe and called him "a very close friend." He noted the firefighters "calm demeanor and friendly smile."
Pataki, in a message read by his special assistant, Maria Roman, praised Guadalupe for his heroism.
"Amid our great sadness, we have been inspired by the heroism of Jose Antonio, better known as Tony, and his fellow firefighters who put themselves at great risk to save others that day. From the worst of moments, we saw the best of New York. Their memory and their example has been an inspiration not just to us in New York, but to people around the world."
"Your husband and all of those who gave their lives in the line of duty will always have our heartfelt gratitude and admiration for the difficult and dangerous jobs they did with such dedication and bravery."
Guadalupe, who was decorated twice in 1996 by the N.Y. Firefighters Burn Center Foundation, was cited in his printed obituary for his "love of adventure" and it noted his latest passion, the acoustic guitar. "He spent endless hours developing these skills," the obituary read.
Dr. Charles E. Betts, pastor of the Morningstar Missionary Baptist Church in St. Albans, led the mourners in prayer.
Steve Walcott of the Bronx and his wife, Anne, knew Guadalupe from age 3, when he used to spend summers in Barbados.
"He was always willing to help someone," Walcott said. "I feel so sad for him," his wife said, "and for all the families who lost [loved ones]."
Claude Brown of Jamaica, a close friend of ten years, said, "He loved his job. His smile said it all. He was charismatic. He skied, rode bikes, played basketball. He had a 55-gallon fish tank with tropical fish." "He had a full life."