Dec. 17, 1963 – Nov. 1, 2019
Irving A. Isenberg was one of four Getzville firefighters who deployed to ground zero after 9/11, stationed one block from the smoldering site of the former World Trade Center. The team rescued at least three people from the rubble around Albany and West streets, using a map ripped from a phone book to guide them to nearby hospitals.
But 16 years later, in 2017, Isenberg was diagnosed with a form of bone marrow cancer studies have linked to ground zero exposure. The 55-year-old first responder, a former chief at Getzville Fire Company, died Friday at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center.
“I would use the term ‘selfless leader,' ” said Steven Herberger, who served with Isenberg for 30 years. “His professionalism was second to none. … He was a great leader for our organization.”
A graduate of Williamsville North High School and SUNY Buffalo State, Isenberg was a member of the Getzville Fire Company for 29 years, serving as fire chief from 2007 to 2011 and president from 2016 to 2018. In a public Facebook post, his wife, Lisa, described him as an “EMT extraordinaire” who served with Tri-Town Ambulance, Twin City Ambulance, the Baird Point Volunteer Ambulance Corps and Buff State’s campus ambulance company. He deployed to ground zero five days after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, an experience he later called a "great honor" in a September 2019 interview with WGRZ.
"I was overwhelmed," he said. "It was very emotional to see."
Isenberg also led a successful career in information technology, serving most recently as the IT director at Twin City Ambulance. He previously worked as an agent for the Transportation Security Administration and as a plant manager for Isenberg Meats, his family’s business.
Friends and fire hall colleagues described the 55-year-old as a “computer guru” and avid gun collector who loved dogs, his family and a good one-liner.
“He’d not only make you feel like you were a friend, but that you were his best friend,” said Rich Graesser, Isenberg’s friend of 30 years. “He did that a lot, with a lot of people.”
In addition to his wife, Isenberg is survived by his mother, Alice; sisters, Susan Boyar and Ruth Lipsitz; stepsons, Jeffrey and Aaron Costa; and a granddaughter.
A funeral is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Monday at Temple Beth Zion, 805 Delaware Ave. The Getzville Fire Company is also asking residents to light a red bulb on their porches for the month of November to honor Isenberg and other firefighters who have died in the line of duty.