UPDATE: Funeral services held for beloved Allentown firefighter
ALLENTOWN, Pa. – Firefighters, friends and family gathered Wednesday to pay respects to a longtime Allentown firefighter.
Chris Kiskeravage, the department’s retired assistant chief for training, died June 9 after a long bout with cancer. He was 56.
When he died, firefighters took Chris from the house draped in an American flag and escorted his remains down the turnpike. Fire stations along the route turned out to pay respects.
On Wednesday morning, many firefighters were already present as calling hours began and vehicles filed into the Allentown Fairgrounds on West Chew Street between 17th and Lafayette.
A celebration of Kiskeravage’s life followed at noon during a Mass of Christian Burial at the Cathedral of St. Catharine of Siena.
Overflow accommodations were available at Maingate nightclub where the service was livestreamed.
Msgr. David James, vicar general of the Diocese of Allentown, celebrated Kiskeravage’s Mass of Christian Burial.
James had known Kiskeravage for about 20 years, he said, since James served as the assistant pastor at the Cathedral of St. Catharine of Siena.
“From my perspective, he was a man of faith. It was part and parcel of who he was.
“He suffered a lot over the past few years, but he fought hard and kept a positive attitude,” James said.
The sheer number of people who came to pay their respects were a testament to how beloved Kiskeravage was, James said.
“When I arrived at the church just after 10 a.m., a line of people had formed all the way down the inside of the church from front to back and out the door,” he said.
Close to 400 people, James estimated, including Allentown and other firefighters from all over the Eastern Region, EMS professionals, police, family and friends gathered to say good-bye.
There was also a contingent from Shenandoah, Kiskeravage’s hometown, one attendee said.
After his family, firefighting was the love of Kiskeravage’s life, James said.
And teaching firefighters.
Several studies have shown cancer incidence among firefighters is significantly higher than the general population and other professions, according to the nonprofit Firefighter Cancer Support Network.
Kiskeravage wanted to know why.
Two years ago, after cancer was found in his pancreas, he set in motion a plan to gift his body to be studied upon his death, said his wife Andrea.
“He pre-planned it,” she said. “He liked the idea that they’re going to let students practice on him. He felt like if it meant that they find out what happened to him, or what’s going on, it could help other people. He was adamant about it.”
Kiskeravage had a passion for fire education and training, and for years led the Allentown Fire Training Academy.
Even in death, Kiskeravage managed to teach one more class, James said.
Kiskeravage served with the Allentown Fire Department for 23 years, retiring as assistant chief for training in 2019. He worked as an Easton firefighter eight years before that.
He also traveled the world training firefighters from other nations.
Following his retirement from Allentown, Kiskeravage became South Whitehall Township’s first full-time fire commissioner.