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A veteran firefighter died Wednesday while on a call around the corner from his home, according to city officials.

Gerald “Bear” Celecki, 70, collapsed after responding to a call concerning the smell of gas at a home on Parker Avenue, said South Amboy Fire Chief Michael Geraltowski.

“We don’t know exactly what happened yet,” Geraltowski said Wednesday afternoon.

The chief said firefighters found Celecki lying face down on the ground near the scene of the fire call, which came in at 8:16 a.m.   Paramedics took Celecki to Raritan Bay Medical Center, where he died a short time later.

Celecki grew up in Perth Amboy and served as a volunteer at the Perth Amboy Fire Department before moving to South Amboy and becoming a firefighter there. In all, he spent more than 50 years as a fireman, according to the chief.

He also served as a fire policeman for Middlesex County, Geraltowski said.

Celecki was well known in the community and earned the nickname bear because of his size, the chief said.

He was a big guy. But he was loveable like a bear,” Geraltowski said.

Residents, city officials and members of other fire departments took to social media Wednesday afternoon to express their condolences.

“A big man with a huge heart,” is how South Amboy native Jane McCarthy remembered Celecki on Facebook.

“Mayor (Fred) Henry, members of the city council and all departments in the city extend their deepest sympathy to his wife Rose and the members of the South Amboy Fire Department, especially to his brothers at Progressive Fire House,” city officials said in the statement.

“Our thoughts & prayers to the family & friends of FF Gerald (Bear) Celecki and the South Amboy, NJ FD,” tweeted the Wood-Ridge Fire Department in Bergen County.

Departments and honor guards wishing to attend are asked to contact Second Assistant Chief Steven Szatkowski at 908-209-0726.


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