WESTFIELD, NJ — Daniel Kelly, Westfield’s fire chief since 2005 and a full-time member of the Westfield Fire Department since 1981, lost his battle against cancer on Tuesday at the age of 54. We asked our readers what they would like to share about Kelly.

You told us that, while the chief was one of those rare people who would run into a burning building to save your family, he was even more than that. He was a well-known, well-respected and much-loved member of our community.

Readers said that Kelly was an active member of St. Helen’s Church, involved with the congregation’s Cornerstone Retreat each year, manning the grill at the annual parish picnic, attending the men’s morning prayer breakfast and volunteering whenever asked.

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He was a member of the Westfield Knights of Columbus. He was the past president of the Union County Fire Chiefs’ Association and FMBA Local #30, as well as a longtime member of the Emerald Society.

“It’s tragic whenever anybody at such a young age passes away, but it’s devastating when it’s someone the caliber of person of that Kelly was,” said Westfield Police Chief David Wayman. “It’s a devastating loss to the fire profession, to the town of Westfield and this community. He was a constant professional and leader and he exemplified the phrase ‘leading by example.’ He would always be there for anyone regardless of the day or time of day. I think that the hardest part for me personally is the untimely loss of a good friend.”

“What I remember most about Chief Kelly is when I first got elected to the town council,” said Mark LoGrippo. “As a newly elected town councilman, Chief Kelly gave me a tour of both fire houses in town. What I remember most is how excited and passionate he was about giving me a tour of the entire department. Also, I will never forget his professional leadership preparing for Hurricane Sandy.”

Resident Debby Burslem called Kelly’s death “A heartbreaking loss for Westfield and humanity in general. [He was] a man who was a great example of how to be a good human being. Such a nice guy. Always a smile on his face and often a twinkle in his eye. Dan stood so tall in his uniform, always with immense honor and pride. He could have been the poster model for the fireman children dream of growing up to be. His knowledge, advice and friendship will be missed. Our thoughts and prayers go out to both his family and his brotherhood.”

“He was highly respected,” said Reid Edles, president of the Westfield Volunteer Rescue Squad, who visited Tamaques Elementary School with Kelly just a few months ago. “A nice guy. Easy to work with. He will be missed by the Westfield community. It’s just a tragedy.”

“The words ‘consummate professional and career public servant’ do not do him justice. Dan was much, much more than that,” said Mayor Andy Skibitsky in a statement Tuesday. “The passing of Chief Dan Kelly is a tremendous loss to our community. He will be missed. We will forever be grateful for his nearly 34 years of exceptional service to the town of Westfield.”

A funeral mass for Chief Kelly was held Saturday at St. Helen’s Church. To read his obituary, click here.