Wit That Won People Over
Paul Keating went to a carpet store for something to put on his floor for $100, but the rug that caught his eye cost $119. As the salesman launched into a pitch about why it could not leave the store for $100 ‹ stain-guard and padding and such ‹ Mr. Keating grabbed the tag.
"See, it says right there," Mr. Keating said. Then he said, as if reading aloud: "Go ahead. One hundred dollars."
The salesman laughed; Mr. Keating got his bargain.
That kind of scene was repeated often in Paul Keating's 38 years. He could annoy, persuade or reassure with his for one-liners.
"Very few people had the gift of giving you a relentless amount of ribbing while making you laugh," said Jeffrey Borab, a friend. Mr. Keating tried jobs as plumber's assistant and surveyor before joining the New York Fire Department six years ago.
Because he played down his heroic exploits and won friends with his wit, many people recall his charm before his sacrifice. He was off duty on the morning of Sept. 11. "It is noted that he wasn't working when he went there, isn't it?" asked a colleague at Mr. Keating's firehouse in SoHo.
Profile published in THE NEW YORK TIMES on November 19, 2001.