Robert Alexander: A hero's farewell

SHEFFIELD — Family, friends and a phalanx of firefighters packed Our Lady of the Valley Church on Saturday morning for the funeral of former Mount Everett High School graduate Robert Alexander, who died earlier this week.

Alexander, 43, died of brain cancer related to his service on Sept. 11, 2001 in the wake of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, according to a statement released by the Uniformed Firefighters Association.

Robert Alexander's death came about nine months after the death of his father, Raymond Alexander, who also died of cancer related to his efforts at the World Trade Center that day.

On Saturday morning, a large contingent of firefighters in full dress uniform escorted Robert Alexander's body from the Peck and Peck Funeral Home in Copake, N.Y., to Our Lady of the Valley, where his funeral Mass was celebrated.

The Rev. Christopher Keegan, chaplain for the Fire Dept. of New York, officiated.

In Great Barrington, flags were lowered to half-mast in mourning. According to a Facebook post by the Great Barrington Fire Dept., Alexander was a member of that department for several years. Members of that department, as well as many others, attended the service.

Robert Alexander was born in Syosset, N.J. in 1974. Although he attended elementary school on Long island, he graduated from the Sheffield Center School and in 1992, from Mount Everett Regional High School.

While living in Sheffield, he and his family were parishioners at Our Lady of the Valley,

He graduated in 1995 from SUNY Alfred. He worked as a mechanic in the Berkshires for several years before relocating the New York City in 1999.

He was hired in March of 2000 as a police officer by the NYPD. On the morning of 9/11, he was home and off-duty when the call came in about the situation at the World Trade Center. He and his father Raymond, a firefighter in New York, were at the site that day and for many days after.

Alexander desired to follow in the footsteps of his father Raymond W. and grandfather Raymond S. He reached that goal in 2002, s he was appointed a firefighter in New York City.

Robert Alexander won several citations for conspicuous duty while with the department, according to a story on CNN. But in 2015, he was forced to retire, due to the debilitating effects of the brain cancer he was battling.

That ended, according to his mother Ginger, an 80-year run of continuous service as firefighters for the family.

In November of 2016, Raymond W. Alexander, his body battered by seven different forms of cancer, died at age 76. His son would follow nine months later.

Alexander, in the later part of his life, was a strong advocate of the government providing medical treatment for fireman, police and EMTs exposed to carcinogens while working at the World Trade Center site. A story in the New York Daily News reported that the younger Alexander is the 159th individual employed by the FDNY to die due, at least in part, to exposure at the World Trade Center on 9/11.

Reach staff writer Derek Gentile at 413-770-6977.


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