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He was the very definition of “class act,” a father figure and mentor to a multitude who made protecting others their mission. You couldn’t help but love him.

“Firefighting royalty” one colleague said Monday after learning that retired veteran fire chief and academy instructor Larry Rauch had died a week and a half shy of his 79th birthday.

Rauch, the Bergen County Fire Academy’s head instructor for several decades, fought fires for nearly 50 years in Upper Saddle River.

He lived there most of his life before moving to Manchester in 2019 with his beloved wife of 58 years, Sherry, who died this past December.

He was as tough as he was kind. Retired firefighter face mask

A great-grandfather, Rauch received a life-saving kidney transplant last June and sustained an ankle injury last December that laid him up awhile. Prayers poured in not just from those who loved, admired and respected him in Bergen County but beyond.

A Navy veteran, Rauch was on the destroyer that scooped up American hero, John Glenn, after his Project Mercury space capsule Friendship 7 landed just east of Grand Turk in the Bahamas in 1962. Retired firefighter face mask

More recently he went to Israel to train firefighters from Western Galilee in handling flashovers.

SEE: Bergen instructors training firefighters in Israel

A former Upper Saddle River fire chief and past president of the NJ-NY Volunteer Firemen’s Association, Rauch was “a true firefighter who cared about all of us,” wrote Danny J. Pigoncelli .

“He was all of that and more,” added Christopher Pesce (continued below photo).

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