Nelson H. Finkelman was active in fire service until his final days. On Sept. 21, he represented the East Meadow Fire Department by marching in the annual 6th Battalion Parade in North Bellmore. Eleven days later, on Oct. 2, the 56-year-veteran of the department died of complications of a stroke. He was 83.
“He was one of the handful of guys in our department that I would consider an icon,” said Walter Griffin, the chief of the department. “The way he worked, his attitude, his professionalism, you don’t see many like that.”
Finkelman, a U.S. Navy veteran and a member of Ladder Company 2 Station 3, on Newbridge Road, rose to the rank of captain in 1963, and became chief of the department in 1967. He was a secretary to the Board of Fire Commissioners for 25 years, a delegate of the 6th Nassau County Fire Battalion, and worked on numerous committees.
Remembered by friends and colleagues for his booming voice, Finkelman was never one to shy away from conversation, whether it was to tell a story or share some wisdom and advice. But for one friend, it was the way he ended conversations that stood. “His last thing would always be, ‘If I brought any pleasure to any of you with my presence here, then my day has been made,’” said Alan Beinhacker, who volunteered with Finkelman in the East Meadow Kiwanis Club. “And that’s the kind of guy that Nelson was.”
But Finkelman will be remembered most for his dedication and passion to fire service. “He was a fireman’s fireman,” Griffin said.
Born on Feb. 11, 1930, Finkelman was married for 62 years, and he and his wife, Gloria, had four children: Michael Finkelman, now the chairman of the EMFD’s board of commissioners; Lori Finkelman; Amy Falter, and Jody Ratner. He is also survived by 11 grandchildren.
Finkelman’s fire service extended beyond the East Meadow community. He was one of the first fire communication technicians when Nassau County instituted its 911 system in the early 1970s. He was a county fire marshal supervisor, and the chief fire instructor at the Nassau County Fire Service Academy. After In the early ’90s, he became a board member for the Nassau County Firefighter’s Burn Center Foundation, working tirelessly to raise funds for the Nassau University Medical Center’s burn unit.