By Richard Liebson The Journal News
Officer’s death tied to 9/11 work
A 30-year veteran of the New York City Police Department who died from what doctors said was cancer related to his search-and-recovery work at Ground Zero after the 9/11 terror attacks was remembered as passionate, caring and honest at his funeral Wednesday in his hometown.
Nicholas Finelli, 60, died at his home Saturday, a year after he was diagnosed with esophageal cancer.
“He was always passionate and always honest,” cousin Marie Masiello said in a eulogy at Holy Rosary Church.
“Nicky,” who served in the Army before joining the NYPD, was a proud patriot who enjoyed participating in Revolutionary War re-enactments and “could talk about anything; he just knew so much,” Masiello said.
The funeral was attended by 200 mourners, including a large contingent of Finelli’s uniformed police colleagues, who gave him a final white-gloved salute as his flag-draped casket was carried from the church and an NYPD helicopter flew overhead while a lone bugler played taps.
Masiello paid tribute to the department in her remarks, saying her cousin “was a beacon, a guiding light for many, and so too are all of you.”
“You are all symbols of hope,” she said.
Finelli, who had been assigned to the 43rd Precinct in the Bronx, sacrificed for the good of others, the Rev. Martin Njenga said during the funeral Mass.
“We are here to celebrate the life of a hero,” he said, adding that when he visited Finelli shortly before his death, “I could see that he was a courageous man who accepted the suffering in his life.”
Also attending, dressed in 18th-century garb, were members of the Brigade of the American Revolution 2nd N.Y. Regiment, Finelli’s re-enactment group for more than 20 years.
“He just loved keeping American history alive,” regiment member Larry Maxwell of Patterson said. “He went to every event, big or small, and was always upbeat, laughing and joking with everyone. He’ll really be missed.”
Members of Finelli’s family have said they were shocked when he was diagnosed with cancer because he never smoked or drank.
His doctors have said his illness was related to his work helping with the search-and-recovery effort at Ground Zero.
Esophageal cancer is on the list of health conditions determined to be related to the September 11 recovery effort, likely making his relatives eligible for the compensation fund.
The New York City Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association said Finelli would be put in for line-of-duty death benefits.
The public “thinks that all of the funerals were over months after 9/11, but, as we know, all these years later we still have people dying from exposures,” PBA President Pat Lynch said.
“9/11, for this family and others like them, goes on each and every day,” Lynch said. “We’ve lost more members to September 11 illness than we did on the day of September 11.”
Finelli was buried in Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Valhalla.