Luis Alvarez, 9/11 responder and advocate, mourned by family, NYPD at emotional funeral

Former NYPD detective Luis Alvarez died in hospice care on Saturday.

July 3, 2019, 1:02 PM

Luis Alvarez, a former New York City police detective who worked at Ground Zero after the 9/11 attacks and fought for the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund, was remembered for his "tenacity and resilience" at a solemn and emotional funeral on Wednesday.

Alvarez, 53, a husband and father of three sons, died in hospice care from cancer on Saturday. His death came weeks after he testified before Congress to urge lawmakers to extend the victim compensation fund that many first responders depend on to pay their medical bills.

PHOTO: NYPD Detective Luis Alvarez in an undated photo provide by the police department. Alvarez died June 29, 2019 after a three-year battle with cancer that he believed was cause by working at the World Trade Center site after the Sept. 11th attacks.
NYPD Detective Luis Alvarez in an undated photo provide by the New York City Police Department. Alvarez died June 29, 2019 after a three-year battle with cancer that he believed was cause by working at the World Trade Center site after the Sept. 11th attacks.
NYPD via AP, FILE

Alvarez was born in Cuba and was a toddler when his family moved to New York. He signed up for the Marines Corps when he was 18. He went on to join New York's police department in 1990 and became a highly decorated officer, working undercover and on the bomb squad.

"Before he came an American hero, he was mine," his eldest son, David Alvarez, said at the service. "The one above all I wanted to make proud."

"Growing up I'd be told by family members that I was just like my dad. I laugh like him, I smile like him, I walk like him, I'm quiet and stubborn like he was," he said. "I always took it as compliments... because I always looked up to my dad, always wanted to be like him."

PHOTO: Lainie Alvarez clutches the flag from the casket of her husband, former NYPD detective Luis Alvarez at his funeral in New York City, July 3, 2019.
Lainie Alvarez clutches the flag from the casket of her husband, former NYPD detective Luis Alvarez at his funeral in New York City, July 3, 2019.
Carlo Allegri/Reuters

After the attacks on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, Luis Alvarez worked at Ground Zero, cleaning the rubble and waste left at the site. He was diagnosed with cancer several years ago and underwent dozens of rounds of chemotherapy.

PHOTO: Motorcycles arrive for the funeral of former NYPD Detective Luis Alvarez in the Queens borough of New York City, July 3, 2019.
Motorcycles arrive for the funeral of former NYPD Detective Luis Alvarez in the Queens borough of New York City, July 3, 2019.
Carlo Allegri/Reuters

On June 11, Alvarez joined former "Daily Show" host Jon Stewart, and dozens of 9/11 first responders to demand that Congress fully fund the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund that was set up for police, firefighters and others who worked at Ground Zero.

PHOTO: Former Daily show host Jon Stewart, right, speaks to retired police detective and 9/11 responder Luis Alvarez, left, during a hearing on reauthorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, June 11, 2019, in Washington, D.C.
Former Daily show host Jon Stewart, right, speaks to retired New York Police Department detective and 9/11 responder Luis Alvarez, left, during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on reauthorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund on Capitol Hill, June 11, 2019, in Washington, D.C.
Zach Gibson/Getty Images, FILE

"I did not want to be anywhere else but Ground Zero," Luis Alvarez told Congress.

"This fund is not a ticket to paradise," he said of the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund. "It's there to provide to our families when we aren't there."

PHOTO: Jon Stewart hugs another attendee during funeral services for 9/11 first responder Luis Alvarez in New York City, July 3, 2019.
Jon Stewart hugs another attendee during funeral services for 9/11 first responder Luis Alvarez in New York City, July 3, 2019.
Erik Pendzich/REX/Shutterstock

Luis Alvarez "emphasized with blunt grace that future families stand not only to experience the stress of fighting these terrible illnesses but that their struggles would be compounded by the unconscionable financial burden of trying to fund their healthcare," NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill said at Wednesday's service, which was also attended by Stewart.

The ill first responder "just wanted to do what's right and he desperately wanted others -- in particular those in positions of great power -- to follow suit," the commissioner said.

After his cancer diagnoses, he showed "tenacity and resilience that even surprised his oncology team," said his sister, Ida Lugo. "Nevertheless, chemo became his prison, his jail. Often isolating him from the world, too sick to engage."

PHOTO: TThe casket is carried during the funeral mass at the Immaculate Conception Church in New York City, July 3, 2019 for 9/11 first responder Luis Alvarez, a former New York Police Department detective.
The casket is carried during the funeral mass at the Immaculate Conception Church in New York City, July 3, 2019 for 9/11 first responder Luis Alvarez, a former New York Police Department detective.
Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images

"He wanted to urge our government to do the right thing," Lugo said. "It became my brother's dying wish, the legacy he wanted to leave that the bill protecting the Victim Compensation Fund be passed."

Twenty-three NYPD officers died on 9/11. As of Wednesday, 222 NYPD officers, including Luis Alvareaz, have died from 9/11 related illnesses, O'Neill said.

A bill to extend the Victim Compensation Fund passed a House committee in June and is awaiting a full House vote before it is taken up by the Senate.

ABC News' Erica King contributed to this report.

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