The Great Neck Vigilant Engine and Hook & Ladder Co., Inc., known as the Vigilant Fire Company, dedicated its new state-of-the-art ambulance to Honorary Chief Kenneth Bleck at a special dedication ceremony at Jonathan L. Ielpi Firefighters Park on Sunday, May 7. An active Vigilant member since October 1992, Bleck passed away on Sept. 15, 2016, following a long battle with cancer that was linked to his service during and after September 11, 2001.
On 9/11, Bleck led two ambulance crews to Ground Zero and was later redirected to Chelsea Piers. Bleck served as an EMT and rescue worker in the weeks following, breathing in toxic dust—eventually leading to esophageal cancer.
The 24-year Vigilant veteran was honored by the entire company with an unveiling of his name on the new ambulance. His name was also revealed on the park’s line of duty memorial wall, and multiple speeches recognized him for his strength, leadership, guidance, service and love of family.
“It is a true honor to dedicate Vigilant’s new ambulance to my friend and a selfless first responder of the Great Neck community,” said Vigilant Fire Company Chief Josh Forst. “A father figure to many at the company, he exemplified the leadership, guidance and moral strength we look to instill in our new members. All Kenny wanted to do was help the community and respond to neighbors in need. That will be his legacy: someone who was a true Vigilant.”
Members of the Vigilant Fire Company were joined by Bleck’s wife, Linda, their children, Jamie and Carrie, Village of Great Neck Mayor Jean Celender, Village of Great Neck Estates Mayor Billy Warner, Town of North Hempstead Councilwoman Lee Seeman, Nassau County Legislator Ellen W. Birnbaum and community members.
After Forst’s speech, Bleck’s widow and Board Chairman David Weiss unveiled the plaque on the side of the ambulance, memorializing Bleck’s more than two decades of exemplary service. In keeping with the tradition of christening a new emergency response vehicle, Linda Bleck broke a champagne bottle over the bumper. The state-of-the-art vehicle is now the third Vigilant ambulance servicing the Great Neck peninsula, alongside two other vehicles dedicated solely to emergency medical response.
Bleck is only the second Vigilant member remembered on the wall, following the park’s namesake, Jonathan L. Ilepi.