Gerard Jean Baptiste: Treats for Dogs, and Himself
There is a decent chance that Gerard Jean Baptiste had dog biscuits in his pockets when he died. A New York firefighter, he routinely carried treats to give to the pets that walked past Ladder 9 in SoHo. That helped start conversations with the children — or the women — that the dogs towed with them.
The abundance of beautiful women was one reason Firefighter Baptiste loved New York, and especially his job site. "Being American, he thought New York was the most beautiful city in the world," said Delphine Leymarie, his girlfriend.
On his fifth birthday, March 11, 1971, he flew to the United States from his native Santo Domingo. As soon as the plane reached cruising altitude, "he said, 'Now we're in America,'" recalled his mother, Gladys Rodriguez.
Mr. Baptiste studied one thing after another to get ahead in life. He tried graphic arts and computers, he joined the New York National Guard, and he was working to became an officer in the Fire Department. After postings in the Bronx and Brooklyn, he finally seemed happy with the place where he worked.
And then there were the dog biscuits. "I always found crumbs in his pockets," Ms. Leymarie said.
Profile published in THE NEW YORK TIMES on December 8, 2001.