Flags across the city of Albany stayed at half-mast on Thursday as the community mourned a firefighter who died off-duty Saturday after a heart event. Edward Verhoff, or Eddie as friends called him, was just two weeks short of his 46th birthday when he died on Saturday.
He also served as Vice President of the Albany Permanent Professional Firefighters’ Union. The union told NewsChannel 13 that his death was being investigated as work-related as he had previously worked.
Black and purple pennants covered the door of the union headquarters in Albany on Thursday. The building where Verhoff had a constant presence has become a gathering place for his colleagues to mourn in the days since his death.
Union President Robert Mengel said Verhoff values his family above all and is survived by his wife Kim and two young sons. Mengel said he dedicated himself to the fire service.
“We worked together in the fire service for all of his 16 years. He was always an aggressive firefighter on the job, he worked in our heavy rescue unit that goes to every fire in the city,” Mengel said.
He was funny, but firefighters told NewsChannel 13 he had a way of making people feel special.
“Stories about Ed at the fire station, some of which I can’t repeat,” Mengel said, laughing. “When he spoke to you, he made you feel like the center of attention and he was 100% involved in what was going on with you.”
His colleagues say there is a surge of support from firefighters across the country who he has touched with his work to advocate for.
“The support is overwhelming and shows who Ed was as a person. He touched people in ways that cannot be explained. Straight to the heart,” said Mengel.
Verhoff was a passionate advocate for the mental well-being of his fellow firefighters and worked to ensure that their mental health was taken seriously.
“Ed’s concern for the well-being of the Albany firefighters, both their physical health and their mental health, he was a pioneer and on the front lines, he led this charge and he tried to lead this charge across the country,” he said.
Mayor Kathy Sheehan called Verhoff “the consummate public servant” in a tribute post on social media. He was heavily involved in local politics, from his 14th-century neighborhood toth Ward to the larger area.
“He helped everyone under the sun who asked him for help – he helped organize campaigns, ran campaigns, he went door to door for everyone. He was loved when he was 14th District and across the city and across the county,” said Mengel.
There’s a MealTrain to help feed the family and a GoFundMe to ease the financial burden during this time and create a college fund for his sons.
A public funeral is scheduled for Friday morning at 11am at Mater Christi Parish at 40 Hopewell Street in Albany.