By Joe Kemp New York Daily News
A veteran city firefighter, who was known as an extreme athlete who organized grueling hikes through the mountains upstate and 50-mile bicycle tours on Long Island, died on Saturday. He was 54. Lt. Vito Berretta — a 27-year vet of the FDNY who was assigned to Engine Co. 282 in Borough Park, Brooklyn — died from complications after a heart attack while with his family, friends said.
Colleagues remembered Berretta, who also helped with rescue efforts after the September 11 attacks, as an inspiration who was strong in both body and mind.
“He was the type of guy that wanted to do and see everything,” said FDNY Captain George Farinacci, who worked at Ladder Co. 148 for 10 years in the same firehouse with Berretta.
“He also wanted everyone to come along with him for the trip.”
Farinacci said that Berretta organized two trips a year for his fellow smoke-eaters. One was a 50-mile bicycle ride in Montauk, L.I.; the other, a hiking trip in the Adirondacks.
The mountain climbs were “infamous, because it was so grueling that the two Marines we had in the house were pleading for mercy,” said Farinacci, a 21-year veteran firefighter. “The guys couldn’t keep up with him.”
If Berretta wasn’t traveling, or taking pictures to add to his collection of thousands of photographs, he could be found with his nose in a book, Farinacci said.
Berretta — a married father of three — would recommend books to people, especially if he heard you were going somewhere.
“He’d say, ‘If you’re going there, you should really read this,'” Farinacci said. “He was so in-depth and passionate about everything.”
Berretta is survived by his wife, Genevivie, and their children, Nicholas, 24; Daniel, 21, and Eve, 19.
A viewing will be held Monday at Marine Park Funeral Home on Quentin Road between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m., and again between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m.
The funeral is scheduled at Good Shepherd Catholic Church at 1950 Batchelder St. in Marine Park at 10 a.m. on Tuesday.