They say a man’s true mark is made not necessarily by what people say about him or the company he keeps in life, but much more so in what is said of him in death. And in the case of the-late Harrison Firefighter Vinnie Doffont, who left this world a little less than a year ago at the all-too-young age of 37, there is no question he was not just a special firefighter. He wasn’t just a great Harrisonian.
He was an all-around wonderful human being, who to this very day — and perhaps forever more — will be fondly remembered by generations of folks who knew him and loved him.
And among the many posthumous accolades he’s received and will continue to receive, the latest is the Vinnie Doffont Memorial 5K run/walk, which will take place in Harrison later this month.
That event is the combined brainchild of three people who had a special role in Doffont’s time on earth — Harrison Fire Chief Henry Richard, Firefighter Hector Londono and Councilwoman Ellen Mendoza. Londono held a special place for Doffont, the chief said, because they both served on the Harrison FD and both served in the military.
For the triumvirate, the memorial event, Sunday, March 26, at 9 a.m., the proceeds of which will benefit Doffont’s widow, Brighid, daughter Leighton and son Liam, was only natural.
The official walk/run has been specially planned and will make its way from West Hudson Park, through Harrison with a pass by Harrison Fire Quarters and will end right back where it stepped off at the park.
“Having the event pass by the firehouse — with what I hope is raised flags and more — is such a great way to memorialize Vinnie,” Richard said. “It will be a timed race, as the entire course has been mapped out. So some will run while others will simply walk the course.”
The event is one of many ways Henry has remembered his colleague and friend, especially of late.
“I loved Vinnie,” the chief told The Observer. “He was such a well-decorated firefighter. From Day 1, he showed me such much respect, the kind of respect we all should have given him and hopefully did. He was colorful. He had a huge heart and he is missed.”
Henry also recalled a story of another firefighter who once made a most poignant remark about Doffont.
“He said if he had one firefighter he could take with him forever, it was Vinnie Doffont,” Henry said. “Vinnie was that kind of guy.”
And it wasn’t just at the fire house where Doffont was engaged.
He was the product of Harrison schools, went on to St. Mary’s High School, Rutherford, was a standout football player and wrestler and then went on to take college courses.
It just seemed everyone he met — everyone who knew him — was aware, clearly … Vinnie Doffont was one of a kind.
Harrison Councilman Larry Bennett certainly is one who agrees with that sentiment.
“Vinnie Doffont was an amazing young man who gave so much to the Harrison FD and the town,” Bennett said of his friend. “He loved what he did for a living and because of that, everyone who knew him, whether on or off the job, loved him.
“When we lost him last year, it was very difficult for all of us, but especially for his beautiful wife, Brighid and his children Liam and Leighton. We miss him very much but I know I am so grateful his memory will always live on in town, at the department and now through this special 5K race-walk. He was and always be one of the good ones.”
The run/walk is open to the public, and not just for Harrison residents. Register for it or find out more information by logging onto runsignup.com/Race/NJ/Harrison/VincentDoffonts5kRunWalk.
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Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.