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National Fallen Firefighters Foundation

Roll of Honor

Age: 60
Year of Death: 2016

Vincent Ungaro

Vincent Rocco Ungaro was born on August 18, 1956, to Vincent P. and Susan (Cenicola) Ungaro. He was the second of three children, with his older sister, Rose, and his younger sister, Angela. Once he began wrestling for Brentwood Junior High and High School, he found something that became a part of how he would identify himself for the rest of his life. He went on to be a Suffolk County champion and an All-State wrestler.

On September 2, 1979, Vincent married the love of his life, Dianne Stark, and his father-in-law, Frank Stark, encouraged him to take the test for the FDNY. Vincent became a probie in the FDNY in July 1981, and in the fire department he found the same type of camaraderie and dedication to higher purpose that he had missed since giving up wrestling. His first assignment was to Engine 214/Ladder 111, “The Nut House.”

On October 19, 1984, Vincent and Dianne welcomed their first child, Vincent Frank Ungaro; thirteen months later, Jessica Dyan Ungaro was born on November 22, 1985. Eventually Vincent was promoted to lieutenant and moved into Ladder 8 in lower Manhattan. When Squad Company 288 opened in Maspeth Queens, he took a transfer and was working there during 9/11.

Vincent spent the next nine months heading into Ground Zero to work when not taking his regular shifts at Squad 288. The mental toll was difficult as each day workers spent time trying to clear debris and find the remains of their friends. Unfortunately for many, Vincent included, the physical toll remained hidden for years.

After search and rescue at Ground Zero was completed, Vincent was promoted to captain and took charge of Engine 235 in Brooklyn. After being diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia, he remained on the job until he had 30 years in before retiring. After retiring, he was able to see his son marry Kristine Myer and his grandchildren Maureen Katherine and Vincent James be born. He traveled with Dianne and spent more time doing what he loved, helping others.

Once he was admitted to the hospital for the last time and his time was growing shorter, he held hands with his daughter, Jessica, as she married Michael Panico in his ICU room while a family friend and fellow FDNY brother performed the ceremony. His last wishes were granted, and he came home and held his grandchildren and puppy for the first time in months. He passed on October 1, 2016, surrounded by loved ones. In the last few weeks of his life, he repeatedly told those around him that he had no regrets, wouldn’t want to change anything, and was tremendously grateful for everything.

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  1. Uncle Vinny, I think you know this, but you were a lot more than just my godfather. You were my hero. You were one of the most selfless human beings I’ve ever met. Only a month before you passed away, I was so nervous about starting a new career and you told me that they would be lucky to have me and that I was going to do fine. Even in the face of death, you only wanted to help. That’s the kind of man you were and I hope I can be a fraction of what you were. I’m trying. Thank you for always being there. We all miss you very much.

    – John DePalma