PATERSON, NJ - For 33 years Luis Vega served as a member of the Paterson Fire Department. But that only tells a part of the story of the man who has spent nearly his entire adult life as a Paterson resident.
On Saturday, Vega was feted by family and friends, including Mayor Andre Sayegh who presented a proclamation that credited the dedicated public servant for establishing “a model to emulate and a standard of excellence toward which others might strive.”
Vega, Sayegh said, is a “man of honor,” and one who has “too much intelligence, too much passion” still to give and is not truly retiring but instead “repurposing.”
Born in Puerto Rico and raised in New York City, Vega served in the United States Force from 1973 until 1977 before moving to Paterson and becoming one of the city’s Bravest in 1986.
Like so many others, Vega distinguished himself by running towards emergencies most others were rightfully running from. During his storied career Vega served with Engine 9, Engine 6, and as a member of the Urban Search and Rescue Team with Rescue 2.
Vega earned his Fire Arson Certificate and worked with the Fire Prevention Bureau, often giving fire safety talks to senior citizens and young students across Paterson. On September 11, following the worst terrorist attack on US soil, Vega responded and helped search for victims at the World Trade Center.
Also speaking Saturday was Deputy Mayor for Commerce Eli Burgos who said as a firefighter Vega did everything he was asked to do, and as a proud resident of Paterson, gave even more, including supporting numerous non-profits and always helping to raise funds. Anyone, Burgos said, could “call on Luis and he’d be there.”
For his committed service, Burgos added, Vega was a worthy recipient of one of the highest honors any resident can receive, a key to the City of Paterson.
Not one to keep the attention on himself, Vega, who until his retirement held the distinction of being the longest serving active firefighter in the department, used his time with the microphone to thank everyone in the room for joining in the celebration, all of whom just by being there, he said, were his family.
In his trademark style that deftly combines loyalty, respect, and a passion for supporting those around him, Vega concluded his comments by offering one simple piece of advice to the men and women whom he stood shoulder to shoulder with at so many fires:
“Look out for each other.”
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