HUDSON — Firefighter Mark Graziano was given a hero’s salute through the streets of the city Monday as firefighters from the Twin Counties paid their last respects to a fallen comrade.
The Hudson firefighter, best known for pulling a drowning man from Oakdale Lake, was honored with a procession through the city which began at the Central Fire Station, 77 N. Seventh St., at 7 p.m. and ended at Bates & Anderson — Redmond & Keeler Funeral Home, 110 Green St.
“We are here to honor Mark as a brave man who spent the greater part of his life in selfless service to the city of Hudson,” Mayor Rick Rector said before the procession began. “I express the gratitude of the city of Hudson for the sacrifices that had been made. On behalf of us all, thank you very much.”
The fire department announced Wednesday that Graziano died in the line of duty after responding to two calls in a 24-hour period. He was 47.
Graziano volunteered with the city fire department and J.W. Hoysradt Hose Co. No. 8 for most of his life. Graziano joined the Hudson Fire Department at age 14 as a junior member in the department’s Explorer program. He went on to attain the rank of captain and became a member of the department’s rescue diving team and the Columbia County Hazardous Materials team.
“Some people will admit that one of the only reasons they joined the fire service was because they saw the enthusiasm that Mark had,” Hudson Chaplain Rick Washburn said at Graziano’s memorial service. “He never stopped. He never questioned. He just did what needed to be done. I got exhausted just watching the man.”
Firefighters in dress uniforms began to march down State Street from the central fire station to the intersection of Fifth and Warren streets.
Graziano’s firefighting gear and a black flag adorned the front of a Hudson fire truck.
Warren Street, which is usually a bustle of cars, shoppers and dog walkers, was at once reverent and silent. Firefighters from both sides of the Hudson River stood in salute in front of their fire trucks which lined both sides of the street.
Outside the J.W. Hoysradt Hose & Chemical Co. fire station, 515 Warren St., bagpipers played a mournful wail under a large American flag that hung overhead, hoisted by ladders atop two fire trucks.
Tones on the radio called for Graziano, but he would not hear it. It was his final alarm.
“He has been a part of our lives for so long we cannot imagine how his cheerful personality can no longer be with us,” said Hudson fire chaplain Paul Roemer. “He was honest, decent and gave so much to the fire service. We salute his generous and outgoing spirit.”
After Graziano was given a final salute, the marchers moved up Warren Street. The procession paused outside his home on Green Street before stopping at the funeral home.
“Our brother, Mark, was, in many ways, the best of us,” Washburn said. “No matter how sick he felt, he would never say no. If you needed help, he was there. You only needed to ask.”
Washburn encouraged firefighters who looked to Graziano for direction to follow his example.
“May we go forward,” he said. “May we use his example. May we not be afraid when that whistles blows.”
To reach reporter Amanda Purcell, call 518-828-1616 ext. 2500, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or tweet to @amandajpurcell.