To celebrate his 50 years of service with the Lynbrook Volunteer Fire Department in New York, it would have been customary for Margate resident Pasquale ''Pat'' Cestone to fly up north and attend a big dinner in his honor.
But Cestone, 75, who also volunteered for the Coral Springs Fire Department since he moved to South Florida 10 years ago, is stricken with cancer and was unable to make such a trip.
So his old colleagues from New York brought the celebration to him.
Thursday, three of his old friends from Lynbrook and dozens of Coral Springs Fire-Rescue workers gathered in front of his Margate home to present him with plaques, certificates and a badge naming him an honorary fire commissioner.
''This is one milestone that not too many members get,'' said Garry Pazzman, a former Lynbrook fire chief.
Cestone wept as he thanked his friends for the honor.
''This is overwhelming,'' he said. ``It's something that I'll never forget for the rest of my life.''
Cestone joined the volunteer department when he was 26, moving up through the ranks to become chief when he was 40. His paying job was with a Long Island water company. He retired in 1994 and moved to South Florida, quickly volunteering for Coral Springs. He worked in fire prevention and checked fire hydrants.
''It didn't take him long before he went riding around with the fire department,'' said his wife, Carole Cestone.
She said her husband had so looked forward to making his 50th year of service.
''It's been No. 1 all his life,'' she said.