Thank you for Keeping his Image Alive, Says Family of FDNY Lt. Matt Ambelas, S.I.'s Most Inspirational person in 2014

SI Advance - December 29, 2014

by Mark D. Stein

Thank you for Keeping his Image Alive, Says Family of FDNY Lt. Matt Ambelas, S.I.'s Most Inspirational person in 2014

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- FDNY Lt. Gordon (Matt) Ambelas was named Staten Island's most inspirational person of 2014 on Monday.

The FDNY lieutenant died in early July after suffering multiple injuries on the 19th floor of a 21-story public-housing building in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn.

Prior to the announcement that Ambelas won the poll, three people reached out to the Advance: Ambelas' mother, Grace; sister, Christine, and fellow firefighter, Eric Bischoff, the Staten Island Bureau Trustee for the Uniformed Firefighters Association.

Their comments, in their entirety, are below.

From Grace Ambelas:

I am writing on behalf of my son Gordon (Matt) Ambelas. Matt was born and raised on Staten Island. He attended St. Paul's grammar school, became a boy scout, played Little League at Snug Harbor, attended McKee H.S., started his career as a postal worker for several years on the south shore and became a FDNY firefighter in 2000.

In September of 2013 he became lieutenant and studied faithfully to take the FDNY captains test scheduled for December. He loved and respected his fellow brother firefighters and fellow human beings. He was a man of integrity, character and goodness. A devoted husband and Awesome father. to the loves of his life his 2 daughters Gabriella an Gigi, Every time he came home they would jump up and scream "Daddy's home Daddy's home," a real-life Mr.Mom.

Matt earned his college degree while attending to his work,maintaining his home, helping neighbors and caring for his family. You could find Matt on weekends at the park,zoo etc. Teaching his little one's to ride a bike, skate, swim, camping and loving every minute. Matt died in the line of duty as a "hero" I believe a "hero" is someone who chooses to make a difference in our community, our country and our world.

Matt was a humble man and would have been honored to be chosen as an inspiring human being along with all the other honorable candidates. We miss him so very much. Thank you for keeping his image alive. We need everyday Hero's who can truly make a difference in our world. Thank you so much to everyone who voted for Matt. Let us all start the new year by making a difference.

From Christine Ambelas:

My name is Christine and I am Lt. Gordon Matthew Ambelas's sister. I want to first thank the Advance for including my brother as an inspirational Staten Islander. He truly was!!

He lived on Staten Island his whole life, was born in the old Staten Island hospital, we lived on Pelton Ave until my parents bought a home on East Buchanan St. in New Brighton.We went to St. Paul's school. He played t-ball and baseball at Snug Harbor little league and worked at Key Food on Forest Ave after school. We both went to Mckee Vocational HS & he graduated in 1991. He worked for the US Postal service mostly in the south shore for a few years before being called for his dream job, FDNY Firefighter working in Staten Island and Manhattan. He truly loved the job and actually looked forward to going to work every day, who can really say that?? Lol. He made a lot of friends along the way which was not hard for him. He was a joy to be around and had many interests including music (playing bass & guitar) as well as listening to music of all rock eras, football (NY Jets). My parents only had 2 children, my brother and myself, but we come from a big family, my Mom (Grace Ambelas) is one of 10 children, my Dad (Gordon Ambelas) who currently lives in Florida had one brother who had three children needless to say, we had a lot of cousins (last count was 37 cousins and 67 2nd cousins on our Mom's side)

He met and married his wife in 2005. But I believe it is when his 2 children, Gabriella (2006) and Giovanna (2009) were born he truly felt complete. He absolutely adored them and took such pride in his family. He did the very best he could do every day and it showed. He took pride in his home and did most of the maintenance himself. He did it all. He worked laboring jobs only to come home and always have time for his children, whether it was picking them up from school, helping with homework, making delicious dinners, or reading them a night time book before bed. He even ventured with a friend to open a 99 cent store on Midland Ave that didn't succeed but he gave it his best shot. He did it to make his family happy and provide them with happiness and security. He also decided to better himself and go on to receive an associate's degree which in turn could help prepare him to be qualified to take the FDNY's Lieutenant's test. All the while juggling his professional life, his home life and studying for the Lieutenant's exam. He proudly became a Lieutenant in September of 2013 and sadly lost his life in the line of duty on July 5, 2014 in Brooklyn. He honestly was such a humble, sincere, giving person and I am so proud and honored to say that I am his sister. His family is heartbroken by his tremendous loss but I was graced with his love and admiration for almost 41 years and can honestly say he is truly an inspiration of what a man should be.

Before closing, I would love to thank everyone who voted for my brother. I also want to give credit to each of the deserving nominees. Each one has selfishly given of themselves to be the best that they can be, not to be rewarded but to make the best of what life has bestowed upon them and they are trying to make Staten Island a better place. Hats off to Brian Hunt, Pete Davidson, Ngawang Tsetsen, Rich Canci , Nick Corallo & the 3 Lowe's workers for making Staten Islander's proud. My very best to you and your families, may you have an outstanding New Year.

P.S.: Matt was always smiling. I can't tell you how many people approached me since his funeral to comment what a terrific sense of humor he had and that every time you saw him, he always wore that beautiful smile.

From Eric Bischoff:

I am pleased to see the results of your poll for Staten islands most inspirational person, 2014. Although all candidates are deserving, Matt Ambelas is the rightful winner of this honer.

I had the honer of knowing Matt very well. We were firefighters together at the "beach boys" firehouse, in South Beach, Staten Island. Better known as Engine 161 - Ladder 81. Both of us had come from other parts of the city, and then ended up at "The Beach", and worked there together for over a decade. As young firemen we bonded, and became lifelong friends.

We had worked side by side during the rescue and recovery efforts at the WTC. We had vacationed together in Cancun, and later, with our families in the Bahamas. He and I were room mates for several years before we had started our families. He was a truly wonderful human being!

Matt was an unusually easy going individual. When the times were tough, Matt was someone people could turn to for leadership and inspiration.

Matt had so many memorable experiences in his career, professionally and personally. We had entered the "iron skillet" cooking contest, preparing food for over 500 guests, coming in second place.

He was an amazing firefighter. He was respected by all. A real "bull" of a firefighter. Tough as nails in a fire, and gentle as an angel in the firehouse. Matt was loved by all of his colleagues. He was most recently sighted for the rescue of a six year old boy how was critically stuck inside in a mechanical roll up steel gate. He had worked during the night of hurricane Sandy, and was on the front lines of every major emergency that Staten Island and NYC had faced during his time in the Department.

He was a loving husband and father. He was married for nearly 10 years to his wife Nanette. They had met when we were roommates together. He and Nannette raised to beautiful little girls, Giovanna and Gabriella 5 & 8 respectively. They had lived in a modest home in Great kills with Nanette's younger sister Teresa, who has developmental disabilities. Matt had taken care of her with Nannette with great pride, and gentle care.

Matt studied for promotion in order to further his career, and provide more for his family. Shortly after his promotion, he was assigned to "the Hooper Street Gang" in Williamsburg Brooklyn. Not surprisingly, Matt fit right in.

On the evening of July 5th Gordan "Matt" Ambelas took in his final run for the NYC fire department. At approx 9:30 pm Ladder 119 responded to a fire alarm for a job on the 19th floor of a 21 story high rise residential apartment building. The fire was relatively unremarkable. There was very little wind, which could typically be problematic in high rise fire operations. However the men experienced high heat and a very cluttered apartment. He became trapped in the bedroom of the apartment.

He lead his men from the front that night with bravery, relentless in his efforts to find and save lives. He died that night a hero! That is how he lived. We will never, ever forget him, God bless his memory, and the mark he has left on the FDNY, and his loving family.