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ALS Widow leads fire department in “Ice Bucket Challenge”

STROUDSBURG — Dr. Daniel Luongo was the kind of man his wife Sandy always dreamed of meeting.

“His sense of humor, his brilliance, everything, his smile, his energy,” she said.

A renaissance man who taught at ESU, drew political cartoons, and loved fighting fires as a volunteer in Stroudsburg.

But in the spring of 2013 his health began to fail.

“He was hoarse and he had trouble swallowing, and we knew there was a problem,” Luongo said.

For months the couple tried doctor after doctor, searching for a definitive diagnosis. But when they finally got one in January 2014, the prognosis wasn’t good: Dan had ALS, a disease that attacks the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, taking away the ability to move and speak.

“He lived though his voice and he lost it. He lost his voice. That was the most pathetic thing of all. He knew it and he felt powerless,” Luongo said.

Luongo said after the diagnosis, her husband’s condition deteriorated quickly. He had to stop going out on fire calls, and was only able to use a chair lift installed in his home one time. In April, just three months after learning he had ALS, Dr. Daniel Luongo died.

Luongo said Dan hoped that someday researchers would find a cure for ALS. However, he probably never imagined a bucket of ice at the fire department he loved would be part of it.

Monday evening dozens of fire volunteers arrived at the station on Sarah Street, just a few buckets wouldn’t be enough for a man who started serving the department in 1965.

Many of the firefighting brothers Dan served with for decades joined in the challenge, along with his beloved Sandy.

After being doused Sandy smiled and said, “Life-changing experience!”

The department made a donation to the ALS Association in Dr. Dan’s memory.

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