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Bishop Fisher Catholic Life Features

Family and Friends turn out to honor hero firefighter Jason Arno


A sea of uniformed firefighters braved the cold as they lined Franklin Street in Downtown Buffalo. Brave is a relative term, of course. They were gathered to honor fellow firefighter Jason Arno, who lost his life in a blaze on March 1, not far from St. Joseph Cathedral, the site of his funeral.

The body of fallen firefighter Jason Arno arrives at Str. Joseph Cathedral on the back of a firetruck. Arno died as he lived, as a man for others. (Photo by Nicole Dzimira)

At 10 a.m. on Friday, March 10, bagpipes began to play. Arno’s casket arrived on the back of a firetruck, draped with an American flag to honor those who die in the line of duty. After being wheeled into the cathedral, family and friends placed white funeral pall on the casket.

Arno, 37, leaves behind a wife, Sarah Elizabeth, and a 3-year-old daughter, Olivia, as well as seven siblings and his parents, David and Cheryl.

Bishop Michael W. Fisher, welcomed the capacity crowd in the cathedral and those watching via large-screen monitors in downtown.   

“As we gather here to support each other, we call upon our God for strength, and to commend your husband, your father, your son, your brother and friend Jason to the Lord who loves him and gives him life,” the bishop said. “Know my constant prayers for you and pledge for support, one that echoes, I’m sure, far beyond the walls of this cathedral and around our city, which is grieving with you, and praying for you.”

His brother Delton Arno, delivered a eulogy that listed the qualities – good and bad – that he admired in his older brother.

“He was risky, loving, mischievous, compassionate, altruistic, belligerent, thoughtful, kind, the heart of family, the glue between crowds, the life of the room, the center of gravity, level headed among the chaos, made you want to strangle him and agree will him at the same time,” Delton Arno started. “As a contrarian first and a voice of reason second, everyone hanging onto his every word and he had them all in his pocket.

“We were arm in arm sitting across the ocean, on our backs under the stars, marching to the beat of our own drums. His mood depended entirely on yours, so your happiness came first. My mood depended entirely on his, so I always came with problems I knew we could solve. Fights so violent and hugs so tight. Tears in anguish and healed over scars. Misadventures and reasons to stay in and celebrate just being alive.

“He was it. He had life figured out. Through babysitters and bullies, death and divorce, we were thick as thieves. In a confusing world we distilled the wisdom together. He was micromanaging the parties and laissez-faire with the mingelers in an atmosphere of his own making. Ensnared by his skills of listening, he explored your personality. A part of him went wherever you did because you were his world and he was yours at least for a short time.

“Through summer bikes, boats, trampolines, laser tag, hikes on islands, being stranded in the airport, drinks in Mexico, funerals. He was there fixing my untied shoes and unpopped collar.

“He was a socialite, master chef, gambler, magician, server and firefighter. Every new day made memories for a hundred lifetimes.

“He had a fused L two and L three. He had a mechanical pencil lead stuck in his finger. He had a heart arrhythmia. He said would restart his heart if his heart ever stopped. He was tough as nails and endured ceaselessly without complaining. He was a foot shorter and a hundred pounds lighter than the men defeated on the football field.

“There were things I’d never known without my brother.”

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown was on hand to offer condolences to the family.

“The tragic death of Firefighter Arno, known by many as Jay, is a profound loss to our entire community,” he said. “Our hearts are broken. There are really no words to fully process the grief that Firefighter Arno’s death leaves with us.”

Michael D’Orazio, former commissioner of the Buffalo Fire Department, addressed the congregation as though he was addressing his own crew.

“We’ve seen more than our fair share of these. Once is too many. Never gets easier. But with your continued support, your continued love, we’ll get through this again. We always will. We always do. Stay strong. We got this,” he said.

Also speaking at the funeral were Vincent Ventresca, president of Professional Firefighters; and James Slevin, 1st district vice president, International Association of Firefighters.

After delivering their remarks, Slevin and Ventresca presented the IAFF Medal of Honor to the Arno Family.

Arno was born and raised in Buffalo. He graduated from Canisius High School in 2003 where he was known as a good athlete, tough, competitive and full of energy. But former campus ministry director at Canisius, Father Frederick Betti recalled him as a man for others. He joined the Buffalo Fire Department in February 2020. He also loved cooking, taking culinary classes at Erie Community College and interning in Italy. He enjoyed working at bars and restaurants citywide prior to becoming a firefighter.

Among the number of priests concelebrating the Mass were Father Paul Seil, current chaplain for the Buffalo Fire Department, and Father Joseph Bayne, OFM Conv., former chaplain. Father James Van Dyke, SJ, who taught Arno at Canisius High School and is now president of Georgetown Preparatory School, delivered the homily.

Listen to the memorials to Jason Arno here.

Listen to Father James Van Dyke’s homily here.


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