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Bronx-born Steven Bonano, 53, who was awarded 69 medals over a 30-year NYPD career, died at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center after a years-long battle with the disease.
He was to have gotten married Jan. 25, said his family, who asked that his fiancée’s name be unpublished.
“I’m very proud of what my son has accomplished in his life — always driving to do better,” said his father, Tony, 81. He’s also survived by his mother, Vivian, 77.
Bonano spent much of his career in the elite Emergency Service Unit, which he commanded on 9/11.
“He loved the police department, it was his life,” a colleague said. “He was a cop’s cop. He was my mentor. He was always looking for us to do better. He always did better for himself. He accomplished so much.”
Bonano started on the force patrolling crime-ravaged Bronx neighborhoods in the 1980s, when fires and violence left large swaths of the borough scorched and abandoned, according to the book “Brave Hearts” by Cynthia Brown, who chronicled Bonano’s life.
He went on to become one of the highest-ranking Hispanic officers in the department, rising through the ranks to work as an undercover detective, commanding the Aviation Unit and receiving the force’s second-highest medal, the Combat Cross.
“Bonano was a true leader not because of rank but because of the man he was,” said Dennis Gonzalez of the NYPD Hispanic Society, of which Bonano belonged to for many years. “Those who knew him as a police officer knew he was destined for greatness.”
After his heroic work in the wake of 9/11 and already well into his 40s, Bonano decided to return to college — earning a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard.