When Irv Isenberg was eleven years old, he approached a firefighter named George John and asked him what he was doing at a football field in Williamsville, New York. John told him he was there to take care of any football players that got hurt. Irv asked if he could help, and every week that summer he carried John’s medical bag. That was Irv’s introduction to emergency medical service, and it would become his lifelong passion.
Irv was a member of the Getzville Fire Company in Getzville, New York, serving just shy of 30 years. He held several ranks, including fire chief and president of the company. Growing up in western New York, he served with several ambulance companies in the area, including Twin City, Tri-Town and Gold Cross. In that time, he rendered aid to countless individuals. His friends and family described him as being an “EMT Extraordinaire.”
In 2001, Irv was one of four Getzville firefighters that deployed to New York City in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. He was part of a team that rescued three individuals from the rubble around Albany and West Streets, using a map ripped out of a phone book to help guide them to nearby hospitals.
Sixteen years later, Irv was diagnosed with multiple cancers linked to time spent at Ground Zero. He died on November 1, 2019. He was 55.
Three months before he passed, Irv was interviewed by a reporter in Buffalo about his time at Ground Zero. “I was overwhelmed, it was very emotional,” he said. “Just to be able to help our fellow brothers and sisters down at FDNY… it was a great honor.”
Irv loved his family, especially his wife, Lisa. He had a granddaughter, Olivia, whom he adored, and one month after Irv’s passing, his grandson, Emerson Alan, was given the same middle name in honor of Irv. Irv had a tremendous heart for animals, including his dogs and cats. He led a successful career in information technology and owned a firearm business.
Irv was a selfless leader and mentor. His professionalism was second to none. He always kept the momentum of those around him going. As if to honor what sparked his lifelong passion for EMS on that Williamsville football field, Irv loved to say goodbye to his fellow first responders by leaving them with his favorite saying: “Keep moving the chains.”