In the 24 hours before he died at age 80, Ex-Assistant Chief Richard Kaplan of the Jericho Fire Department responded to four emergencies.
For more than 50 years, Ex-Chief Kaplan responded to calls at all hours of the day and night to assist his neighbors. He was a firefighter, a leader, and a mentor. To the men and women of the Jericho Fire Department, particularly his Trident Engine Company #3, his loss is unimaginable. Ex-Chief Kaplan twice ran up the ranks of lieutenant and captain, from 1969-1973 and from 1989-1991. He served as assistant chief from 1973-1978 and as fire commissioner from 1981-1988.
“The fire service was the biggest part of his life,” his son David said. “That was what he did when he wasn’t working. No golf or anything like that. It was fire and family, his kids and grandchildren.” He answered more alarms than any other firefighter in the history of the Jericho Fire Department, receiving one award after another for “Most Alarms” answered annually. He drove the fire truck and the ambulance and was a card-carrying EMT. He was “Steady Eddie.”
Born in Manhattan on September 30, 1936, he graduated from William Howard Taft High School in the Bronx in 1953. He attended the University of Illinois, then transferred to New York University, where he received a bachelor’s degree in business administration in 1958. He met his future wife, Judy Kromash, in 1960, at the advertising agency where they both worked. The couple moved to Jericho in 1965, and he joined the Jericho Fire Department the next year.
During his years in the department, he responded to emergencies large and small, including the Avianca flight that crashed into a hillside in Cove Neck in 1990, killing 73 of the 158 people aboard. His son recalled the time his father was at the scene of a circus truck that struck an overpass, which allowed some of the animals to escape. As a reporter asked about reports of snakes on the loose, he slid a radio antenna up the man’s pant leg.
He retired from the financial services industry 19 years ago and loved to travel. He and Judy enjoyed cruising on a regular basis and gambling in Las Vegas and Atlantic City.
Ex-Chief Kaplan is survived by his wife and three sons, Michael Kaplan of South Huntington; David Kaplan of Melville, chief of the Melville Fire Department; and Robert Kaplan of Syosset, a past chief of the Jericho and Syosset Fire Departments.