STRATFORD, Conn. — It was 7 a.m. on the morning after Christmas — a few hours into their shift — and the Stratford Fire Department got a terrible 911 call that the members will never forget.
It was from Jessica Carrafiello, the wife of their colleague, Jay, and he needed emergency medical assistance.
Despite the efforts of the Stratford Fire Department, Stratford EMS and Bridgeport Hospital, Jay Carrafiello died. He was 38 years old.
According to Stratford firefighter Gerald Casey, the entire department is mourning the loss of one of their own.
"The morning after Christmas would have been Jay's shift, but he had been out of work for the month of December due to surgery after tearing his Achilles [tendon]," Casey's wife Melissa, of Shelton, said in a phone interview.
"The department is like a big family. These guys had to work on their loved one that day — and lost him," she said.
Gerald Casey said his memories of his friend will last a lifetime. He painted a picture of his friend.
"Jay was a big guy -- 6 feet, 2 inches. He'd wear Size 14 pink Crocks. You couldn't miss him.
"He was a great guy to work with, he said. "Whenever he walked into a room, he would make you smile."
Casey worked with Carrafiello for 12 years, sharing the same shift with his friend.
"Whatever he said was just funny. We picked on each other all the time," Casey joked.
Carrafiello lived in Stratford his whole life.
His family has had rough times recently. His wife, Jessica, is unable to work for the next few months after having surgery on a broken ankle.
The couple has an 18-year-old daughter, Caitlyn, who is a freshman at Southern Connecticut State University, and a 14-year-old son, Brian, who is a freshman at Bunnell High School.
To help Carrafiello's family make ends meet during this terrible time, the Caseys have set up a special You Caring webpage in Jay's name.
The page has been shared 290 times and $3,085 has already been raised out of the $10,000 goal.
Gerald Casey shared some special memories of his friend. "Whatever Jay tried to say came out differently. It didn't come out the way he intended, and he always blamed me for it," Casey joked.
One day, the two men were talking about their diets and Casey had a dessert. "He told me he didn't want any part of the dessert. He said, 'I'm going to have a big glass of cold 02.' He meant H20, which is water, but he said 02, which is oxygen," chuckled Casey.
Aside from working for 12 years as a firefighter-EMT for the Stratford Fire Department, Carrafiello loved sports and coached kids in football and basketball for 14 years.
On the donation page, Melissa Kirby-Boyle wrote, "Jess, we are so incredibly sorry to hear about Jay's unexpected passing. We can't imagine what you and your family are going through. We will keep you all in our thoughts."
Donna Howard wrote, "My heart is breaking that such a wonderful man has to leave us."
To make a donation to the Carrafiello family, click here . Cards of support can be sent to Stratford Fire Headquarters, 2750 Main St., Room 105, c/o Jess, Stratford, CT 06615.