Augusto “Augie” Acabou and Wayne “Bear” Brooks Jr. – Newark, NJ fire fighters who made the ultimate sacrifice during a July 5 shipboard fire at the Port Newark – were honored by thousands of mourners in back-to-back services this week.
Newark Firefighters Union Vice President Eddie Paulo spoke at Acabou’s funeral, which was held at 10 a.m. on July 13 in the city’s Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart.
“He was kind, he was compassionate, loving, a true man’s man and the utmost gentleman,” Paulo said of his childhood friend. “A loyal friend, a loving brother, a fun uncle, a beloved son. Augie never missed an opportunity to make people feel loved. Every conversation we ever had ended with ‘I love you.’”
A service for Brooks was held the next day in the Cathedral.
Newark Firefighters Union President Mike Giunta, who was stationed with Brooks for over 10 years, spoke about the influence “Bear” had on others.
“It has been said that ‘death is a comma, not a period.’ Death changes life, but it does not end it,” Giunta told the crowd. “Each of us was made better by Wayne Bear Brooks Jr. His goodness…his honor…his love…influenced us all. In that way, Bear is always with us. In that way, he always lives on.”
Both Acabou and Brooks were posthumously promoted to captain. General President Edward Kelly presented the families with IAFF Medals of Honor after the funerals.
Leadership from the Professional Firefighters Association of New Jersey, the New York State Professional Firefighters Association, and the Professional Firefighters of Massachusetts joined IAFF Executive Board members at both funerals. Senator Bob Menendez sat with the delegation during Friday’s funeral.
Thousands of fire fighters from across the United States paid their respects to the fallen over the two days, including members who traveled as far away as California and as close as Jersey City, NJ.
“While we all feel the loss of Augie and Bear, our grief pales in comparison to what their families feel,” said Kelly. “But, as fire fighters, we will carry that weight with them and make sure they never walk alone.”
Líma echoed Kelly’s sentiments.
“Supporting our sisters, brothers, and families during difficult times is one of the most important roles of the IAFF,” he said, “and I know this union will continue to be there for Newark fire fighters and the Acabou and Brooks families long after this week.”