Ernest Ceriale Jr., 45, served 23 years as city firefighter

September 26, 2001|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

A Mass of Christian burial for Ernest Ceriale Jr., a veteran Baltimore firefighter killed Friday night in a hit-and-run accident, will be offered at 11 a.m. today at St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church, 8420 Belair Road in Fullerton.

Mr. Ceriale, who was 45, was a resident of Kingsville. He worked 23 years with the city Fire Department and for the past 13 years was assigned to a hook-and-ladder company at the Fells Point station.

He was off duty and stopped on his motorcycle at a traffic light at Belair and Joppa roads in Perry Hall when he was struck from behind by a pickup truck whose driver fled. Police said that driver was arrested later and charged with driving while intoxicated.

A Baltimore native, Mr. Ceriale graduated from Patterson High School and worked about four years as a crane operator for Bethlehem Steel Corp. at Sparrows Point before joining the Fire Department in 1978. He was assigned to Truck No. 3 at Eastern and Collington avenues, where he was an acting first lieutenant. He was a member of Baltimore City Fire Fighters Local 734.

"You know what we do for a living, me and my brother both, we see tragedy all the time and it's not the easiest thing to do," said Lt. Michael Ceriale, who was assigned to Truck No. 3 with his brother. "Tragically [drunken driving] is a story around the country that still has not changed."

Beyond his work as a firefighter, Mr. Ceriale helped to save lives as a platelet donor at Johns Hopkins' Hospital's Hemapheresis Center, and encouraged fellow firefighters to consider it as well.

"It took more dedication than to donate blood," said Richard G. Schluderberg, a hook-and-ladder driver and president of Local 734. "You would go to Johns Hopkins, and it would take two, two and a half hours to process your blood. They would take your platelets and white cells out of your blood and return your red cells."

"My brother was the type of person that was always there to help people. If you were on the side of the road in an accident, he would be the first one there," said Michael Ceriale, who decided to become a firefighter in his early 20s after visiting his older brother at the station house.

In addition to his brother, Mr. Ceriale is survived by his mother and stepfather, Charlotte and Milton Caplan of Boca Raton, Fla.; his father, Ernest Ceriale Sr. of Baltimore; and a sister, Cindy Detling of Sparks.

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