Loved ones remember fallen Long Beach Fire Capt. David Rosa as ‘natural leader’
David Rosa was always meant to be a firefighter.
From a young age, the Orange County man put others before himself and possessed an ability to be mindful amid chaos that made him a natural fit for a first-responder.
And when he was struck by gunfire while responding to an explosion in a high-rise senior apartment building in Long Beach one week ago, he was just doing what he did every day: running selflessly toward danger to protect the vulnerable.
On Monday, loved ones and colleagues of the fallen fire captain gathered to grieve and exchange memories of him at the Long Beach Convention Center, where some 8,000 people are expected to attend his 10 a.m. memorial service on Tuesday.
Firefighters from across Southern California and the nation will fill the 13,500-seat arena at 300 E. Ocean Blvd. to honor Rosa, a 17-year veteran of the Long Beach Fire Department and a beloved Little League volunteer in San Juan Capistrano.
On June 25, Rosa became the first Long Beach firefighter in 44 years to be killed in the line of duty, when he was shot while responding to a predawn explosion at the Covenant Manor retirement home. A resident has been charged with killing Rosa and wounding two others after attempting to carry out a murder-suicide targeting a woman who lived above him, prosecutors said.
Rosa, 45, leaves behind his wife of 19 years, Lynley, and two sons, Alec, 26, and Samuel, 15.
Sitting beside a portrait of Rosa standing against flames in his gear, his friends and colleagues painted a portrait of a man whose compassion and ability to be present transcended his professional and personal lives — a “natural leader” who created a sense of family wherever he was.
“I see this picture and I think he’s an action hero, but the guy who came over every week was a real man that really wanted to go deep and grow,” said close friend Jonathan Wood. The two met through Bible study at Mountain View Church in San Juan Capistrano, where Rosa’s family lives.
Rosa was a devout Christian and embodied the story of the Good Samaritan, he said, anonymously stepping into action to save others every day.
“To me, that’s David, he didn’t know anybody he saved, he just saved them,” Wood said.
Rosa was born at Torrance memorial medical Center, according to a biography from the Fire Department. He was the first of two children born to parents Paul and Jean Rosa. The family moved to Long Beach in 1981, and he joined the Long Beach Fire Explorers program at 16. Rosa served as a paramedic for a private ambulance company for six years until he was hired by the Long Beach Fire Department in 2001. He was promoted to captain 10 years later, working at some of the busiest station and leading training programs for recruits. Rosa was assigned most recently to Station No. 10.
Firefighters said Rosa made them laugh every day at the station. They never grew tired of his same old stories because he told them with animation and excitement that was contagious.
“I think Dave was just so full of joy that he wanted others to be as happy as him, and the way that he accomplished that was with his humor,” said Long Beach Fire Capt. Josh Hogan, Rosa’s former paramedic partner.
He described Rosa as a “natural leader.”
Rosa was a germaphobe and picked up sunflower seeds beneath the bleachers at Little League games. He even banned them from being sold at the snack stand, said friend Cori Armstrong.
“He loved everything baseball and he wanted to share his love and enthusiasm with everyone,” she said.
The world needs “more Dave Rosas,” Armstrong said.
Rosa drove the same old Toyota truck for years and proudly shared a photo of its odometer when hit 222,000 miles. He was a humble and simple man, said firefighter Nick Markouizos.
“Personally, I became a better man as a result of being a partner with Dave,” he said.
Rosa’s cousin, Craig Wilson, said his greatest priorities were Christ, his family and the Fire Department.
“He would hate the pomp and circumstance we’re giving him today because he would not classify himself as a hero, but someone who’s doing his job,” Wilson said.