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Three from NY, NJ, killed in Florida car crash

January 9, 2012 3:21:47 PM PST
Three people from New York and New Jersey died in a car crash in Florida Sunday. One of the victims was a volunteer firefighter in Haworth.

You can tell by his smile, Albert Koeniges loved life.

"His dedication to be a public servant, he loved this town. He loved the people in this town," said Chief Robert Hennion, Haworth Fire Department.

And next to his kids and granddaughter, Haworth's Volunteer Fire Department was his heart and soul.

"He always felt that he had to be here, and he always did. He had a warm presence when he was in the building," Hennion said.

Outside the department that Koeniges joined in 1943, and gave 63 years of his life to, the flag flies at half-mast in honor of a much loved member.

80-year-old Koeniges and two longtime friends, sisters, ages 75 and 73 died in Jupiter, Florida Sunday. Koeniges was driving this Honda SUV, when it veered off I-95, slammed into a light pole, rolled down an embankment, flipped over a retaining wall, and sank in a canal.

The news quickly spread in tiny Hawthorne, most especially to the young guys, who were not even born when their mentor joined.

"In a department mostly short-staffed, it was hard loosing someone as knowledgeable as him, even at his age. It's a tremendous loss for the department," said Kenneth Kiel, VP Haworth Fire Company.

The department was Koeniges' second home.

So much of his influence is here, and his wife's: a scholarship awarded to college-bound kids bears her name and is still helping kids nearly 20 years after her passing.

It was only death that could take Koeniges away from his service here.

"No way he wanted to give this is up. He'd be here to the day he couldn't walk. His dedication was unbelievable here," Kiel said.

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