The news of Emily Brandi’s unexpected death this week spread through the close-knit Seaford community like wildfire. Within hours, scores of heartbroken people took to social media and posted about how sad they were to learn of her passing and how much she had meant to them.
After all, Emily — and her husband, Doug — were lifelong Seaford Harbor residents, and both grew up in the extended Wantagh Fire Department family.
Emily, a past president of the Seaford Harbor PTA and a trauma nurse at Nassau University Medical Center, died on July 19, just weeks after being diagnosed with lung cancer. She was 48.
Doug Brandi, a member of Wantagh Engine 3, described his wife of 22 years as a “very caring person.”
“She always took care of others before herself,” he said. “She took care of her family, her friends and worried about herself afterward. She helped you no matter who you were.”
Doug said that he and Emily had been part of each other’s lives for 33 years, since he joined the Fire Department in 1985. Emily’s parents were both members, having joined in 1983. Her mother, Bernadette — known as Bunny — was one of the first women to join the department, and served until her death in 2004, according to department spokesman Kevin Regan. Her father, Charlie, served until his death in 2016, and her brother Joseph served from 1990 to 1997. Emily grew up hanging around the firehouse, and she and Doug got to know each other there.
Doug also remembers that Emily would come into the nearby Harbor Deli, where he worked as a youth. They started dating, and married in 1996, at the Church of St. William the Abbot in Seaford. Doug said they decided to travel together before having children, and especially liked the Caribbean islands.
The couple settled in a house in Seaford Harbor, on the same property as the house Emily grew up in. There they raised two children, Alexi, now 21, and Nicholas, 16.
Emily was a member of the Friends of Seaford Wrestling, and could regularly be seen and heard cheering on her son and his team at wrestling matches. She was active in the Seaford community as well. Doug said that she helped with the apparel for the Seaford-based Long Island Broncos football team.
She was born Emily Fiorella in Brooklyn on Feb 20, 1970. Her parents lived in Seaford Harbor. After attending elementary and middle school there, she went on to Saint Anthony’s in Huntington for high school. She went to college first at SUNY New Paltz, and then Hunter College. It wasn’t until she was 40, and Nicholas was in first grade, that she went back to school to become a nurse. She attended Nassau Community College for two years, studying and doing homework around the clock, her husband said, while still involved in her children’s activities. She graduated from nursing school in 2012, her proud family at her side.
She began her career as a ventilation nurse at NUMC, Doug said, then moved to the Emergency Department, and then became a trauma nurse.
On her Facebook page on July 19, Doug posted this message: “Heaven got another angel today. Emily lost her short battle with lung cancer around 2:30 [p.m.] today. She was a trooper through the whole thing … thanks for 30 plus years and our beautiful family. I will always love you. Until we meet again. XOX.”
Doug said he didn’t even know all the things Emily had been involved in until he read the many comments in response to his post, as well as all the posts on the Seaford Moms and Dads and other local Facebook pages.
One read, “Seaford Wrestling as well as the Seaford community lost a family member today. … She was loved by all.”
Joseph C. Gross III, chief of the Fire Department, released this statement: “Any time a member of the Department loses a loved one we gather to support one another, for in many ways, the Fire Department is like a family, and every loss is felt throughout the Department.”
In addition to her husband, her children and her brother, Brandi is also survived by her sister-in-law, Joseph Fiorella’s wife, Heather; and their children, Samantha, Sabrina and Joseph Jr. The family asked that donations be made to the American Cancer Society, P.O. Box 42040, Oklahoma City, OK 73123.
A wake was held on July 22 at the Charles G. Schmitt Funeral Home in Seaford. A Mass of Christian burial was held the next day at St. William the Abbot Roman Catholic Church, where she and Doug were married.
During a Memorial service at the funeral home, Fire Department Chaplain John Kwasnik said, “A wise man once said that the nicest place to be is in someone’s thoughts and the safest place to be is in someone’s prayers, but the best place to be is in God’s hands.” He added, “I’m sure Emily is in all three places at this time.”