Brian Cannizzaro, 30,
known for his passion for life
Farrell grad followed his father into the
Brian Cannizzaro Memorial Photos
Tender Dad at Home,
Was a Rambo at a Fire
by Stephanie Slepian
Copyright © November 13, 2001
The Staten Island Advance.
Brian Cannizzaro did nothing in moderation.
When he proposed, it was before an audience after the cast of Broadway's "Beauty and the Beast" took their bows in the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre.
He hid the engagement ring in his sock and his family in the mezzanine as he and his future bride, Jacqueline O'Mara, took in the show from the front row.
"Without my knowing, both of our families were all up in the mezzanine, and we had front-row seats," Mrs. Cannizzaro recalled. "After the cast came out and took their bows, the prince in the play proposed for him."
When she turned to look at Mr. Cannizzaro, he was down on one knee holding the ring. Their families were cheering from the upper rows.
"He went above and beyond in every aspect of his life," Mrs. Cannizzaro said. "He had more passion and more zest for life than anyone I have ever met. He was the smartest and strongest person I ever met."
Mrs. Cannizzaro was notified Sunday night that her husband's body had been recovered from the World Trade Center rubble. He was 30.
Before the firefighter left for work on Sept. 11, his wife said, "I love you and be careful," as she did every morning. He went off to Ladder Co. 101 in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn as she went off to teach her students at Barnes Intermediate School, Great Kills.
Because she was only receiving bits and pieces of news while at school, Mrs. Cannizzaro said at first she didn't realize the enormity of what had happened. She was able to return to the couple's nearby home on a break.
"One of the other wives called me and said they were all accounted for," she said. "She called and said they were all OK, so I went back to work. It wasn't until 5 p.m. that night that I learned the Ladder 101 men were missing."
Following in the footsteps of his father, Sam, Mr. Cannizzaro entered the Fire Academy in February 1999 and graduated in May. He was assigned to Ladder 101 and rotated to Engine Co. 217 in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn and Engine Co. 55 in Manhattan, before recently returning to Ladder 101. He was a member of the department's Columbia Association.
His father retired in 1994 from Ladder Co. 86, Graniteville, after 32 years on the job. When Mr. Cannizzaro joined the Fire Department, he took his father's badge number: 11126. His younger brother, Craig, is a Fire Department candidate.
"What is really significant for me is that my investigation date comes up on Dec. 1, my brother's birthday," said Craig, whose desire to become a firefighter has been reinforced by his brother's death. "It has made me stronger."
Mr. Cannizzarro gave everything he had to his job, and even more to his family.
His wife still counts her husband's proposal as one of the most magical moments in her life. At the end of the show, the prince announced their names and asked them to stand.
"At this point I had no clue," Mrs. Cannizzaro recalled. "He said, 'Jacqueline, Brian has given me the honor of asking you if you will marry him.' I turned to Brian and he was on one knee holding a beautiful ring. It was the most magical, amazing night. It was just perfect. He is my prince."
When they left the theater, there were limousines waiting to take the entire clan to a party and later on in the night, the couple went to the Hamptons to celebrate with their friends.
They married on March 20, 1998 in St. Clare's R.C. Church, Great Kills. Their wedding song was "Beauty and the Beast."
Following the magic of their engagement and wedding, they received their greatest gift: Their son, Christopher. He recently celebrated his first birthday.
"He was, by far, the most amazing father," Mrs. Cannizzaro said. "He loved walking with Christopher and throwing him up in the air. He couldn't wait until the days when he could take him to sporting events and take him fishing."
Brian and his son Christopher
The trio enjoyed trips to Hershey Park in Pennsylvania and afternoons in their special place -- Wolfe's Pond Park.
Described as the life of the party, Mr. Cannizzaro always had everyone laughing.
"I miss his sense of humor," said his brother, Charles. "He always made everybody laugh. When he came into a room, the room lit up and we would get ready to laugh."
Born in Dongan Hills, Mr. Cannizzaro moved to Eltingville upon his marriage and to Great Kills two years ago.
Prior to joining the Fire Department, he was an export manager for Charles Happel, Inc., Manhattan.
After graduating from Monsignor Farrell High School in 1988, he earned a bachelor of science degree in transportation and logistics with a concentration in computer science from St. John's University, Grymes Hill. He was president of the Sigma Chi Upsilon Fraternity and played on its football team. He was also the chairman of the student union.
The sports enthusiast played basketball at the South Shore YMCA. He also enjoyed skiing, fishing and listening to rock music. Always concerned with fitness, he talked about getting into bodybuilding.
In addition to his wife, Jacqueline, his son, Christopher, his father, Sam, and his brothers, Charles and Craig, Mr. Cannizzaro is survived by his mother, Carol.
The funeral will be Thursday from the Casey-McCallum-Rice South Shore Funeral Home, Great Kills, with a mass at 11 a.m. in St. Clare's Church. Burial will be in Resurrection Cemetery, Pleasant Plains.
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