On September 13 the Town of Lloyd lost one of the pillars of the community when Ben Bragg Jr. passed away at the age of 72.
Bragg was born on June 11, 1949 in Poughkeepsie, the son of Benjamin Sr. [1924-2018] and Rosalie (nee Rizzo) [1924-2004]. He graduated from Highland High School, class of 1967 and joined the Highland Fire Department in 1969, starting out as a driver and rising through the ranks to Lieutenant, Assistant Chief, Deputy Chief and Chief in 1982. He eventually went on to serve 31 years as a Fire Commissioner. He also worked with his father in the family’s electrical business and even found time to serve as a Little League Coach.
Bragg married Kathleen “Kat” (nee Ellis) on October 4, 1970 and the couple had two sons, Benjamin and Michael, 4 grandchildren and a great grandson. Ben has 3 siblings, Dennis, Patricia and Robert.
Last Friday a funeral Mass was held at St. Augustine’s Church in Highland, officiated by Fr. Thomas Lutz, with assistance from Fr. John Lynch. The fire department brought Bragg to the church in the 31-10 2001 pumper truck and assisted every step of the way. After the mass a funeral procession drove past the Highland Fire house and to Bragg’s place of business, eventually winding its way to the Lloyd Union Cemetery where he was buried beside his parents.
Fr. Lutz urged everyone to gather their hearts and minds, “together with gratitude and love for Bennie’s life that has touched the lives of so many people in this community, especially his family and his many friends in the fire department...Let us pray that God will mercilessly greet him at the gates of paradise to share in the happiness of the saints.”
Terry Elia read a letter from St. Paul to the Romans: in part, “For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written: As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bend before me, and every tongue shall give praise to God, so that each of us shall give an account of himself to God.”
Ben’s brother Dennis said, with a catch in his voice, there will be many holidays and occasions when he and the family will miss his brother.
“The sun will come up tomorrow and where is uncle Ben; simple, he is with mom and dad,” he said.
Grandson Jordan said Ben taught him many lessons that have impacted his own life.
“He worked very hard for everything he has and had in his life,” Jordan said. “More importantly he taught me the importance of family. He would tell us all the time to never take your life for granted. If you have the means and you can do it, go do it. Go live your life, it’s too short, so live it the best way you possibly can.”
Fire Chief Peter Miller said there was a serious side to Ben Bragg, “and the other side was anything but,” recalling Bragg’s memorable laugh and chuckle.
Miller described Bennie’s commitment, desire and fortitude as “second to none,” crediting Bragg for bringing the department into the modern era.
“He had plans, things to get done. He was never defeated and he always pressed on,” Miller said, noting that it took three public votes to establish the new firehouse. “He was involved to his eyeballs in getting the fire district to cover the whole Town of Lloyd; that happened because of Bennie Bragg.”
Bragg pushed to have high quality ambulance service in town and helped bring the police department to their new home at the firehouse, all under one roof.
“Bennie you will be missed greatly and we take this opportunity to thank you and remember you always,” Miller concluded.
Commissioner Stephen DiLorenzo spoke of his long friendship with Bragg.
“He has meant so much to me personally. We’re never going to forget him, he was my best friend and he was like family to me. Ben Bragg, please rest in peace,” DiLorenzo said.
At the Lloyd Union Cemetery Fr. Lutz said, “Our brother Bennie has gone to his rest in the peace of Christ and may the Lord now welcome him to the table of God’s children in heaven. With faith and hope in eternal life, let us assist him in our prayers. May we who mourn one day be reunited with our brother and together we meet Christ Jesus when He, who is our life, appears in glory.”
Chief Miller explained the tradition of the striking the bell, most importantly signifying that Bragg’s assignments and duties are now done.
“It is with regret that we acknowledge the passing of our faithful servant, Chief and Commissioner, Benjamin A. Bragg,” Miller said.
Chief Anzalone struck the silver bell in a designated series in honor of Bragg, followed by two bagpipers playing Amazing Grace.
The red Highland Hose Co. #1 flag that draped Bragg’s coffin was carefully folded and presented to his widow Kathleen by Chief Peter Miller.
John Beck, who handled the funeral arrangements, said that Ben Bragg, “always inspired me and you find a person in life that knows how to uplift and give you a boost and he always did and he is going to be remembered.”
Ben’s brother Dennis and grandchildren Jordan and Ashley brought the ceremony to a close with the singing of ‘God Bless America’.