Just two days before he died from Stage 4 colon cancer on Sunday, Nov. 12, Lt. Edward (Eddie) McDonagh, a retired Rockland County FDNY lieutenant, gave a speech during the Irish Echo’s First Responders Awards Dinner.
"He was larger than life and such a good man," said his wife, Kimberly McDonagh on Friday. "He was the love of my life and the consummate New Yorker."
The two were meant to be together, meeting when they were young and in high school. He took her to her high school prom. They were in love but were told they were too young.
So Eddie, 49, joined the U.S. Marine Corps and married someone else and had two children. Kimberly also married someone else and had two children. Then they both divorced and found each other again and had a child of thier own, who is six-years-old.
"He loved his five children," Kimberly said. "He was a great father.
And, he never complained about the cancer that took his life or the reason he contracted the disease, spending months on the "The Pile," at Ground Zero.
"I"m an Alabama girl and Eddie was the Irish New Yorker," she laughs. "But we made it work. He was such a good man."
A 20-year veteran of the fire department, McDonagh also served in Desert Storm as a member of the U.S. Marine Corps. He joined the fire department in Feb. 1996, and was first assigned to Engine Company 324 in Corona, Queens. In 2007, he was promoted to Lieutenant and assigned to the 3rd Division.
In Oct. 2009, McDonagh was assigned to cover a lieutenant spot in Engine Company 37, The Heart of Harlem. He was officially assigned a spot in Engine 37 on Sept. 29, 2012.
He retired on July 27, 2016. It was a job he never wanted to leave, Kimberly said.
"We couldn't have made it through without the love and support of the fire department," she added.
On a special Facebook page, Kimberly wrote the following on Wednesday to her late husband: "There are moments I know you are gone. There are others when I am sure strength of will return you to me. I am not lost, not yet. I still think you are going to walk back through the door; even though I saw you carried out of it. I don't know how to live in a world that you don't exist in. It seems you, being your wife, is what I was destined for; so what am I if you aren't here? I hate going to sleep. I reach out to you every night, but you aren't there. I miss you. I need you. I love you. I'm guessing you don't read Facebook in the great hereafter...but hope springs eternal."
He is the 20th firefighter to die of a 9/11-related illness this year.
McDonagh is survived by his parents Edward (formerly of Kiltimagh, Co. Mayo, Ireland) and Ellie (formerly of Loch Gowna, Co. Cavan, Ireland) (nee Reilly) McDonagh; his wife Kimberly (nee Settle) McDonagh and children Philip (Jenna) Kabatt, Caitlin McDonagh, Gideon Kabatt, Jaclyn McDonagh, and Edward Liam McDonagh. He is also survived by his three sisters; Moira (Chris) Cullinan, Eileen McDonagh, and Deirdre (Joseph) DiFrancesco. His nephews Patrick and Kevin Cullinan, and nieces Danielle and Jean DiFrancesco and Bridget Cullinan. There are also a host of aunts, uncles, cousins.
Services for McDonagh will begin Saturday at the Michael J. Higgins Funeral Home, 321 S. Main St., New City. A funeral Mass will be held Monday at 11 a.m. at St. Francis of Assisi Church in West Nyack, Rockland County.
In lieu of flowers, please donate to the FDNY Fire Family Transport, firefamilytransport.org/donate.html .
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