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Heartbreaking Battle Ends For Beloved Bergen Firefighter

Timmy Rice
Timmy Rice Photo Credit: Tony Greco / Kenneth Ehrenberg

A career Bergen County firefighter's valiant battle with cancer ended Saturday, leaving countless loved ones, first responders, friends and others devastated.

"We all ask why the great ones are taken to soon and we can't find the answer," Hackensack Fire Capt. Justin Derevyanik wrote as news of the death of Timothy Rice spread on Saturday.

Timmy Rice, 42, of Emerson leaves Regina, his wife of 15 years, their daughter, Aubrey, and their son, TJ.

He was "one of a kind, truly one of the nicest, most caring people I’ve ever known," Doug Habermann wrote -- just one of a rapidly growing collection of tributes.

Visiting hours are from 4 to 8 p.m. at Vander Plaat Memorial Home on South Farview Avenue in Paramus.

A funeral Mass was scheduled for 10 a.m. Tuesday at Our Lady of the Visitation R.C. Church on North Farview Avenue in Paramus. Burial will be in George Washington Memorial Park.

Rice officially began his career in public service as a 911 dispatcher for the Paramus Police Department 24 years ago this week.

He was also a volunteer firefighter in Paramus, where he was slated to become assistant chief next year.

The Bergen Catholic and Bergen Community graduate had been with the Hackensack Fire Department the past 17½ years and was a Professional Firefighters Association Local 2081 delegate for more than a decade.

He donated time and money to charity, particularly the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

Rice was diagnosed with cancer in December.

Those who knew of his battle never stopped praying for Rice, right up to this weekend. #timmystrong was the rallying cry.

"He fought a very hard fight to stay alive," wrote Charles Zeek of New Jersey Deputy Fire Chiefs Association, "but God needed him to come home and be by his side."

Around noontime Saturday, more than 100 firefighters from Hackensack and Paramus, along with other first responders, gathered at city Fire Engine Co. 2 on Summit Avenue for the passing from the  morgue at Hackensack University Medical Center to Vander Platt Memorial Home in Paramus.

"Heroes get remembered," wrote EJ Morano, "but legends never die."

A more detailed story will follow.

Timothy "Timmy" Rice and Regina (Gina Marie) Reichart in 2004.

Family photo

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