WALLINGTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — On the one year anniversary of the death of a Jersey City fire captain, a tribute was made to remember the man who helped so many others.

As CBS2’s Tracee Carrasco reported, Patty Barnas remembers Feb. 28. 2014 — the day her husband Jersey City Fire Capt. Greg Barnas gave his life doing what he loved — like it was yesterday.

“It was a restaurant fire. It was really cold. It was weather just like this,” she recalled.

Barnas was also a volunteer firefighter in Wallington, New Jersey.

“He lived and breathed the fire department, and so he was always out helping,” Patty Barnas said.

So for the one year anniversary of his death, family friend Erica Gardella came up with a unique way to honor Barnas and his generosity.

“The card said ‘paying it forward in memory of firefighter Greg Barnas, who lost his life in the line of duty.’ And I told the barista at Starbucks the next four cars that come after me give each car one card,” she explained.

After the cashier followed Gardella’s instructions and gave out the cards, what happened next — thanks to social media — was unexpected.

“I received a letter from Hawaii, Canada, Colorado, Kentucky, Texas, New York — everywhere,” Gardella said.

Her gift of paying it forward in Greg’s name had gone viral and spread all around the country. Not just friends, but strangers took part too.

“He was always so kind, always generous,” Gardella said. “So I figured what better way than to be generous to other people.”

“He would just be amazed. I swear there’s some way he’s seeing all of this and just smiling,” Patty Barnas said.

The hope now is that people will continue to spread kindness and pay it forward in memory of Greg Barnas.