Keith Rumm’s Dec. 9 death made that week even harder for his wife, Kelly, she said — the day was also the 11th anniversary of her mother’s death, and two days after the anniversary of her father’s death.
Family members are still waiting to learn exactly why Rumm, a 43-year-old Williston Park native and volunteer firefighter, died after collapsing in the living room of their home that night.
As they await answers, the community Keith Rumm loved and supported has come together to support his family, Kelly Rumm said.
About 600 people came to his wake last week, and the Williston Park Fire Department has started a college fund to put his three children through school, she said.
“I think it just gives me hope that my children will continue to better themselves and just carry on their father’s legacy of just being the best that they can be,” Kelly Rumm, 42, said.
Keith Rumm was born in Syosset and grew up in Williston Park, eventually graduating from Mineola High School and Nassau Community College, his wife said. He worked with Manhattan Beer Distributors for 18 years, most recently as a sales supervisor.
He joined the Williston Park Fire Department as a junior firefighter and was a full member in Company 1 from 1991 until 1996, the year he met Kelly at a party at a Manhasset-Lakeville firehouse, she said.
They married in 1999 and lived with their three children — Kacie, 17, Kyle, 16, and Kaelyn, 13 — in Bellport and East Patchogue before moving back to Williston Park to live with and support Keith’s parents, Kelly Rumm said.
He rejoined the fire department soon after they returned to Williston Park “because that’s where he felt home,” Kelly said.
In the firehouse, Keith Rumm was a mentor to young firefighters known for his positive personality, Richard Sais, the Williston Park fire chief, said.
“He was a big teddy bear. Everybody loved him,” Sais said. “He was one of the guys that the young kids really emulated, a friend everybody wanted to talk to.”
Keith Rumm helped plan the fire department’s annual Christmas party for Williston Park children and was setting up for the event the night he died, Sais said.
That night, he and Kelly had just finished their nightly cup of decaf coffee in their living room when Kelly went upstairs to take a shower, she said.
When she finished, Kelly heard Keith’s father screaming his name. She ran downstairs, saw him face down on the floor near the Christmas tree and immediately started trying to revive him, she said. An ambulance eventually arrived, but Keith was pronounced dead soon after.
Keith’s death was especially shocking because he had recently lost weight and his doctor gave him a clean bill of health just a week before, Kelly Rumm said.
“I went from having a husband and having a decent life to having nothing,” she said.
The family has been humbled by the outpouring of support in Williston Park, especially in the fire department, Kelly Rumm said.
Firefighters will cover the family’s Christmas gifts and want to put enough money in the college fund to keep the children’s education from causing any financial stress, Sais said.
“He is a lifelong member of the community and everybody knows him, so I think just getting the word out, the benevolence will start,” Sais said.
The Rumm family will carry on Keith’s legacy of community service, a core value he helped instill in the three children, Kelly Rumm said.
Kacie, a senior at Mineola High School, volunteers at Winthrop-University Hospital and spends time with senior citizens through the school.
Kyle plans to become a Williston Park junior firefighter and will inherit his father’s badge and helmet when he becomes a full fire department member, Sais said.
“Now I have to carry on, which I will,” Kelly Rumm said. “It’s going to be hard, but I’m going to do it. I’m not the type of person to just snuggle up under the covers and let the world pass me by.”