Community mourns longtime N.Y. EMT, mentor
During his 28-year tenure, Brian Demarest, 46, worked for many EMS agencies around New York City
Staten Island Advance, N.Y.
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — The first responder community on Staten Island is mourning a dedicated mentor, family man and all-around good guy following the death of 46-year-old Brian Demarest.
The Grant City husband and father of a 3-year-old girl was a "man who did anything for anybody at any time," said his family. He died surrounded by relatives and friends following a sudden illness on Friday, Dec. 10.
In an effort to cover his funeral expenses and help his family, a GoFundMe was created. As of Sunday, the charity website has already fetched more than $37,000 in donations, which organizers say will cover funeral costs and ease stress for the late EMT's wife and young daughter.
"Truly, not even an exaggeration," said his cousin, Lori Demarest-Barrett. "Not even a joke. Just would do anything. I mean, and without a question, 'Sure'... his answer would always be, 'Sure.' Didn't matter what was going on. Didn't matter what he was doing. 'Sure. I got it.' I think he'd never say no to anybody, no matter what — he just wouldn't. And, you know, even though he was the little cousin, he was the protector of us."
The cousins explained that they were so close to Brian, they might as well had been siblings.
"Brian was a huge part of my world, my universe," said another close cousin, Donna Demarest. "And I don't even know how to live life without him. Like we were talking almost every single day. We shared season tickets to the [ New York] Jets. We had the same love for sports teams."
In addition to his daughter, Avery, he leaves behind his wife of five years, Danielle, whom he had a relationship with for nearly two decades.
"He loved her. You just saw it in his eyes, his face. And his daughter. Because he was sick for the last couple of years, he couldn't work. So he was the primary caregiver. Danielle had to work and he spent every single minute with that kid, changing her diapers, like a hands-on father...he was there, 24/7. He just did so much for his family," said Demarest-Barrett.
28-YEAR TENURE AS AN EMT
Demarest graduated from New Dorp High School in 1993, and the same year, he graduated from EMT school. And he was always a person to count on, his cousins explained.
On Sept. 11, 2001, Demarest was on vacation, and while watching the news, then-Mayor Rudy Guiliani called for any first responder, firefighter, police officer, and EMT to report to their local house or station. He quickly aided in the search and rescue effort.
"Immediately, Brian put his uniform on and reported to Richmond County Ambulance where I worked," said Donna Demarest. "He needed to check on me first. Once he checked on me, he jumped in a Richmond County Ambulance and went straight down to the [ Staten Island] Ferry, he got on the ferry and started to do things for people that he never met before in his life."
During his 28-year tenure, he worked for many EMS agencies around the city, selflessly serving many communities including his own, until he found a permanent home at Richmond University Medical Center. He worked tirelessly for all that time, helping those in need and bringing laughter to those who needed it most, until he retired in November due to medical reasons.
"You never heard a bad word about him," said Jeffrey Brown, a colleague of Demarest's for a quarter-century. "He would give you anything at any time. And he always did...It's really devastating, what happened with him, especially with his daughter and his wife. But a great man. We always had a blast together."
'HE WAS MY MENTOR'
One of his long-time partners on the job, Lynn McCarthy said "nobody did this job like him."
"He was one of my best friends. He was my mentor. He was truly one of the kindest people you will ever know. He's funny and he was always there for everyone, everybody," said McCarthy. "It seems so generic, but it's, it's so true."
Demarest once helped the McCarthy family on his free time by using an ambulance to bring Lynn's sister home to hospice to be with her family.
"It's one of the most amazing things he's ever done for me and my family. There's a million others. We all lost a great friend. I can go on and on," she said.
Paul Barone, a colleague who'd known Demarest since he was 19 years old and is engaged to Donna, recalled a time 13 years ago when the EMT helped him in the middle of the night without hesitation to help find one of Barone's sons.
"I said, 'I can't come in, Nicholas ran out the door. I don't know what to do,'" Barone said. "He says, "I'll be right there.' He got coverage for me. Brian and I took his car and we drove around for two hours. We found Nicholas. It just shows you what kind of person he is. Brian was really selfless. He got in his car and came over to my house to help me. And he spoke to Nicholas for about a half-hour."
Demarest will be greatly missed in the EMT world, his colleagues shared.
He was the go-to guy for anyone in the field that had a problem, said William Amaniera, director of EMS at RUMC.
"What I loved about Brian is, it didn't matter what patch you wore — whether you were RUMC EMT, or a Northwell or a fire department or NYPD, he was there for everyone," he said. "When there was a member of the service that had difficulty at home or down on their luck, Brian was always the guy that tried to put people together to help out somebody in need. Brian was a hell of a guy, a unique individual. I loved Brian."
He added that he and his colleagues are doing everything they can to support and take care of Danielle and Avery, Demarest's wife and daughter.
On Friday, members of FDNY Ladder Company 79 helped adorn the EMA House at Richmond University Medical Center (RUMC) in West Brighton with black and purple mourning bunting in memory of Demarest. When news about the bunting was spread on social media, within just an hour, Amaniera said more than 100 people turned out for the tribute.
"And the EMS world, I can't even explain the outpouring of support that they have given our family as a whole and his wife and his mother," said Donna Demarest. "I can't even explain it. Because Brian was a mentor in the EMS world, Brian taught many of the up and comers. They learned the streets through Brian. He's been on a lot of calls and anybody who was on the call with Brian knew that it was going to be okay. They had confidence that Brian was going to be able to guide them through the call, even if they were nervous, Brian wouldn't be."
'YOU COULDN'T NOT LOVE HIM'
Donna Demarest explained that Demarest fit the expression, "To know him is to love him," and that he wanted the people around him to be happy. Even at a funeral, you couldn't sit next to him because he would somehow make you laugh, she recalled.
"I know tons of people say that, but it's truly like, you couldn't not love him," she said. "He can make the worst situation better, funny. Being so close, and you have like a weird sense of humor, or you can laugh your way out of things...He would find a way to make you laugh. So that was definitely part of him — to making people laugh. He wanted people to be happy around him and people were happier."
In his free time, Demarest enjoyed relaxing at the lake house with his much-loved Maine family or watching a game. Whether it was the New York Mets, New York Jets (using his season tickets), New York Islanders, or a Staten Island little league game to support his nephews, Demarest was always cheering on teams and people he loved, with the people he loved, his family said.
Funeral services will be at Colonial Funeral Home, 2819 Hylan Blvd., New Dorp on Monday and Tuesday from 4 to 8 p.m.
In addition to his wife, Danielle, daughter, Avery, and cousins Donna Demarest and Lori Demarest-Barrett, Demarest is survived by his mother, Maria; brother, Michael; niece, Arianna Demarest; nephews Michael and Matthew Demarest, and countless other loved aunts, uncles, cousins and friends, said his family.
(c)2021 Staten Island Advance, N.Y.