Williston Park rallies to support family of fallen firefighter

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Keith Rumm, 43, a Williston Park firefighter, died on Dec. 9. (Photo courtesy of Kelly Rumm)

Keith Rumm may have died more than four months ago, but his fellow Williston Park firefighters are working to keep his memory alive.

The Williston Park Fire Department is planning an April 29 fundraiser to support Rumm’s family following his Dec. 9 death at age 43 from a still unknown cause.

All proceeds from the event at the Williston Park firehouse, featuring a raffle, Chinese auction and live music, will go into a college fund the department started in December for Rumm’s three children, said Tom Pascale, a former fire captain who served with Rumm.

The firefighters wanted to help because Rumm would do the same for any of them, Pascale said.

“I think that’s where a lot of our motivation comes from, that we would take care of each other,” he said.

Rumm grew up in Williston Park and served as a full member of the Fire Department from 1990 until his death. He graduated from Mineola High School and worked as a sales supervisor for Manhattan Beer Distributors for 18 years.

Kelly Rumm, Keith’s widow, said the first two months after his death were the hardest for her and their three children, Kacie, Kyle and Kaelyn.

The family moved to a new Williston Park home at the end of December. Kelly has had to take on responsibilities that used to be Keith’s, such as cooking, she said.

But counseling has “helped us to heal,” she said, and the children carry a portion of their dad’s ashes in clamshell lockets to keep him close.

My attitude is positive,” said Kelly Rumm, who works as an assistant director for the foster care program at the Berkshire Farm Center in Melville. “I try to embrace each day with a glass half full mentality.”

Learning the cause of Keith’s death, though, continues to be a struggle, Kelly Rumm said.

Winthrop-University Hospital still has not released the report on his death to the family after Kelly filled out initial paperwork to get it early last month, she said.

“I need that closure,” Kelly Rumm said. “I need to know, and if it’s something to do with something that’s preventable and I can get my kids a scan, I want to be able to do that.”

Ed Keating, a hospital spokesman, said Winthrop received an official request for Rumm’s medical records on March 29. The hospital needs a copy of the death certificate and other documents before it can release them, he said.

The fundraiser next week will reflect Keith Rumm’s “easy-going” personality, Pascale said, which he showed by wearing flip-flop sandals year-round.

Jimmy Buffett, one of Rumm’s favorite musicians, will be a big part of the soundtrack for the event, Pascale said. Buffett’s music videos will play on a 65-inch Samsung TV that will be given away as a door prize.

And Manhattan Beer Distributors is stocking the event with beer and raffle prizes to show support, said Kevin Gallagher, who worked with Rumm at the company for 16 years.

“They called him the gentle giant — always a good attitude, never give you a hard time,” Gallagher said.

Kelly Rumm said she didn’t know about the fundraiser until she saw a flier for it in a Williston Park store one day in February.

She had just returned from a college visit with Kacie, 17, who will graduate from Mineola High School in June and has been accepted to Pennsylvania State University.

“I was very humbled,” Kelly Rumm said. “The outpouring of support has been extremely amazing and I’m just really humbled by the whole thing.”

The fundraiser honoring Rumm runs from 3 to 9 p.m. on Saturday, April 29, at the Williston Park firehouse, located at 454 Willis Ave. Tickets cost $25.

To purchase tickets, call Pascale at 516-509-7048.

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