He was the very definition of “class act,” a father figure and mentor to a multitude who made protecting others their mission. You couldn't help but love him.
“Firefighting royalty” one colleague said Monday after learning that retired veteran fire chief and academy instructor Larry Rauch had died a week and a half shy of his 79th birthday.
Rauch, the Bergen County Fire Academy’s head instructor for several decades, fought fires for nearly 50 years in Upper Saddle River.
He lived there most of his life before moving to Manchester in 2019 with his beloved wife of 58 years, Sherry, who died this past December.
He was as tough as he was kind.
A great-grandfather, Rauch received a life-saving kidney transplant last June and sustained an ankle injury last December that laid him up awhile. Prayers poured in not just from those who loved, admired and respected him in Bergen County but beyond.
A Navy veteran, Rauch was on the destroyer that scooped up American hero, John Glenn, after his Project Mercury space capsule Friendship 7 landed just east of Grand Turk in the Bahamas in 1962.
More recently he went to Israel to train firefighters from Western Galilee in handling flashovers.
A former Upper Saddle River fire chief and past president of the NJ-NY Volunteer Firemen's Association, Rauch was “a true firefighter who cared about all of us,” wrote Danny J. Pigoncelli .
“He was all of that and more,” added Christopher Pesce (continued below photo).
Rauch’s “knowledge, dedication and desire to see all succeed will go in challenged,” Edward Saraceno noted. “[His] love for the service and sense of humor was contagious.”
“Many men were are better fire fighters today because of him,” wrotePeter O’Connor.
“An absolute gentlemen and professional who always had time for everyone and truly cared for everyone who crossed his path,” John P. Patterson Jr. added. “He is a legend who will live on forever.“
Visiting hours – with mandated masks and social distancing -- are from 4 to 8 p.m. Friday at Vander Plaat Funeral Home, 257 Godwin Ave., Wyckoff.
A firefighter’s service is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Saturday at the Upper Saddle River firehouse, 375 West Saddle River Road in Upper Saddle River.
That will be followed by an 11:30 a.m. family-only graveside service at Old Stone Reformed Church Cemetery, 481 East Saddle River Road in Upper Saddle River.
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