By Bill Parry
An Elmhurst man who perished in a house fire last week should be buried with full military honors, according to U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing). Martin Devereux, 71, was one of three men killed March 21 after a discarded cigarette caused a raging two-alarm fire at 42-28 Ithaca St.
The victim’s cousin contacted Meng’s office Monday to seek the honors saying that Devereux served in the U.S. Navy from 1963 to 1967 and that documents related to his service were likely destroyed in the blaze. Meng contacted the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the National Personnel Records Center to obtain Devereux’s military service record and confirm his eligibility for full military honors.
Meng obtained a copy of his service record Tuesday and sent it to the funeral director at Neufeld Funeral Home in Flushing, where Devereux’s funeral service was scheduled for this Thursday. Only funeral directors can make the formal request for military honors.
“The fire that took the life of Martin Devereux was a terrible tragedy,” Meng said. “He bravely served our country and deserves this military honor for his service. I’m just glad we were able to get the process started and obtain the records in time for the request to be made.”
Military honors for funeral include an honor guard service and an American flag is draped over the deceased’s coffin. Craig Lott, 53, and a third unidentified man died in the housefire.
Another fire broke out in East Elmhurst early Tuesday morning that tore through two homes and three garages. It took more than 100 firefighters from 33 units over an hour to bring the three-alarm fire under control just after 3:40 a.m., according to the FDNY.
Six firefighters were injured. Two refused medical attention, while four were taken to area hospitals where they were treated and released.
Investigators believe the fire began in a garage behind 23-41 91st St. just after 2 a.m. before spreading to the house and then to a neighboring home at 23-37 91st.
“Wind was a factor in its extension to the home next door,” an FDNY spokesman said. All of the residents made it out safely.
Luisa Tobone lived in the first home with her husband and two children as well as her father.
“Firefighters told me it may have started with a short in the garage and then the wind just made it worse,” she said. “The inside of the house is completely destroyed.”
Tobone said they would move in with family in Woodhaven until they could “get back on our feet.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr