Christopher J. D'Ambrosio, a former deputy chief of the Chatham Borough Fire Department, died at the age of 45 at Morristown Memorial Hospital on Thursday, Dec. 6.
When a special person comes into your life and their time comes to pass, there is a feeling of moral obligation to stop our own life and reflect. Chris D’Ambrosio was one of those people; a man who, in the words of Cathi Losavio, "was so much fun, always joking around."
Besides touching several friends and family members, his life also made an impression on several uniformed fire department and police staff in the Chathams that came to pay their respects at his funeral at Wm. A. Bradley and Son on Dec. 10.
In D'Ambrosio's honor, five police and fire department units from Chatham Borough, Chatham Township, Green Village, Bernardsville and New Vernon came together to escort D'Ambrosio from Chatham to his place of rest at Holy Cross Cemetery in Basking Ridge.
Along the way, utility workers stopped what they were doing and took their helmets off in D'Ambrosio’s honor as the procession passed by.
Over 50 uniformed Chatham firefighters and police attended the ceremony and each individual took the time for a special salute as mark of respect and tribute to D'Ambrosio.
Ed Uranyi, a retired police officer from Chatham Borough, said he had "lots of fond memories and laughs from a wonderful man who was taken from us all too soon.”
D'Ambrosio knew everyone in town and most who met him were left with a memorable impression. He had a warm smile and a unique sense of humor that was unforgettable.
Sandy Schwartz grew up in Chatham, but moved away years ago. She said, "I remember Chris as a mini-mayor. [It] seemed every single time I visited my hometown, Chris was always there with his smile and welcoming words, as if a day never passed.”
He was caring, generous and modest of his accomplishments. He was, in the words of his friend Bucky Stevens, "a man who embodied everything that was good in this world.”
Many said D'Ambrosio would not have wanted the escort made for his procession because he did not want anyone to go out of their way for him. Firefighter Paul Carroll said, “He was the kind of guy who would be the first to organize this for someone else.”
Still, Carroll said, those who knew him felt the need for this tribute. “When the news spread of Chris’s passing, all of the fire departments wanted to contribute in some way. It was what he earned and what he deserved,” Carroll said.
When D'Ambrosio's brother Dan gave his eulogy at the funeral Mass, he stopped to salute the men in uniform that honored his brother. “Chris told me before he died that if we made a big deal out of his funeral, he would come back to haunt me, so I’m a little nervous!” he said jokingly.
D'Ambrosio's call to serve was evident even as a young boy. He joined the Boy Scouts of America and reached the rank of a Star Scout as a teenager, and joined the Chatham Borough Fire Department at the age of 18.
He eventually made firefighting his career choice and became a fire inspector for buildings and equipment, detecting fire hazards and enforcing state and local regulations. He was also a coordinator for the Morris County Office of Emergency Management, planning, directing and training for disaster responses.
A firefighter for 20 years, D'Ambrosio's dedication to the unit was unwavering. At the time he stepped down from the department he was the deputy chief of the Chatham Borough Fire Department.
D'Ambrosio was diagnosed with cancer shortly after his father passed away, and continued to battle for his health for eight years. His life was full of pain every day, but he kept fighting and managed to maintain his sense of humor and even smile on the worst of days.
When the Rev. Thomas Korkuch's mother called to tell him the news of D'Ambrosio's death, he said, “The image that immediately came to mind was playing football on the D'Ambrosio's front lawn in the snow with Davin, Danny, and Chris when we were kids.”
The compassion and dignity shared on Dec. 10 will not be forgotten from anyone who was there. Those who did not have the pleasure of knowing D'Ambrosio very well before he passed certainly got to know and respect him on this day. Hopefully his family will be able to be strong and move forward a lot easier knowing how many people D'Ambrosio touched and made a difference to in this world. He left us all a gift, a reminder to go out and do the same: be a bigger person and make this world a better place to live in.
D'Ambrosio was born in Newark, raised in Chatham and moved to Madison in 2003. He is survived by his wife of 14 years, Jeanne (Durica); mother, Patricia D'Ambrosio, of Chatham; his brothers, A. Davin D'Ambrosio, of Chatham, and A. Daniel D'Ambrosio, of Irvine, Calif.; and his dog, Daisy who will also miss him very much.