BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Nearly 1,000 out-of-town firefighters and others are expected to attend the funeral of fallen Buffalo firefighter Jason Arno. Among those out-of-towners, a former Canisius High School teacher of Arno will deliver the homily during Friday’s funeral.
Rev. James Van Dyke, S.J., president of Georgetown Preparatory School in Maryland, taught for many years at Canisius High School.
He knew the beloved Class of 2003 Crusader Jason Arno well.
“It doesn’t surprise me that Jay Arno, he would never choose to be in a horrible situation, but that he would be in a place that required courage,” Fr. Van Dyke told News 4.
“Jason had the bad fortune of being assigned to my freshman English class,” Fr. Van Dyke added. “He was a very nice, likable kid.”
Father Van Dyke coached Arno on the Canisius crew team.
He said the 37-year-old had a quick smile, bright eyes and a genius for friendship.
“Jay had gone into cooking and was noted to be a great chef within the fire department, people looked forward to that,” said Fr. Van Dyke. “That was another sense in which he could serve.”
During his time at Canisius, Arno wore number 28 as a running back on the football team.
“A bit undersized, but tenacious. Tough as heck.,” said Kraig Kurzanski, head coach, Canisius High School Football. “He was the first to step up to do things at practice. He was the first one in drills all the time. So, it didn’t surprise me that he went into a life of service.”
A group of Arno’s Canisius brothers knew just how close Fr. Van Dyke and the firefighter was all those years ago. The group asked Arno’s former teacher and coach to speak at the funeral and to give the homily at St. Joseph Cathedral in downtown Buffalo.
“The gospel that I chose, and they asked that I choose the gospel, is that ‘there is no greater love than this, than to lay down one’s life for friends,'” said Fr. Van Dyke.
The two mentors of Jason Arno said he will ultimately be remembered for his compassion, friendship and love.
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Patrick Ryan is an award-winning reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2020. See more of his work here and follow him on Twitter.