NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – A wake was held Tuesday for 9/11 first responder and victim rights advocate Lou Alvarez.

The retired NYPD detective spent months digging through rubble during the rescue and recovery efforts at Ground Zero.

He died from 9/11-related cancer.

Earlier this month, he testified before Congress about the need to extend federal funding for the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund.

Watch: Family, Friends Talk About Lou Alvarez At His Wake

“Today we mourn. Tomorrow we bury our brother. After that, we think about the message he left for all of us,” said his brother Phil Alvarez. “I ask you to keep putting his message out there.”

“It’s a really difficult time having lost my father, but he was at peace, and I was at peace knowing that he was happy with everything he accomplished,” said his son David Alvarez. “Before he became a hero across the country, he was always mine. He was always a man that I looked up to, who inspired me, who taught me to be the man that I am. To always stand my ground and to keep my head up high. So I remember the father the way I will but I also appreciate the memory the rest of the country will hold of him. This brave man, this steadfast, stubborn man who, despite 69 rounds of chemo, continued to fight and continue to use what voice he could to get his message across, that this is a bipartisan issue, that this is a simple issues. We all need to come together, we all need to take care of each other, and we all need to care especially for those first responders who gave up so much of themselves, who gave up their lives, to help this country get back on its feet after 9/11.”

“He was just a normal guy and he did what he had to do. He was a great man but he was just a man,” said his nephew Michael Alvarez. “He was just my uncle. I’m pretty sure he gave me my first sip of beer, told me inappropriate jokes. That was him. That was how I saw him. And for him to do this, it seemed crazy to us. But he just kept going. Just keep his message alive. He was just a normal man that did this, so anyone can do this, and hat’s what he wanted. He didn’t want to be a hero. He didn’t want his name plastered everywhere. I’m pretty sure he hated that his name was plastered everywhere. Just keep his message alive.”

“Part of Lou’s legacy, besides his three boys, is how he’s helped everyone else, how he’s helped all the first responders, everyone who has worked down at Ground Zero,” said former NYPD Det. Brian Senft, Lou’s colleague.

Alvarez joined the NYPD in 1990 and was a detective on 9/11.

“I will not stand by and watch as my friends with cancer from 9/11, like me, are valued less than anyone else,” he said. “It is my goal and it is my legacy to see that you do the right thing.”

MORE: ‘Why Is This So Damn Hard?!’: Jon Stewart Shames Congress Over 9/11 Victims Funding

Alvarez died Saturday following a three-year battle with colon cancer. He was 53 years old.

CBS2’s Maurice DuBois spoke with him about a week ago in his hospice room.

“Going forward, when people say the name Lou Alvarez, what do you want them to think of?” DuBois asked.

“I want guys to know that – god forbid they get sick, the money is there, the help they need is there,” Alvarez replied. “And I had a small part in helping get that accomplished.”

On Monday, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced he would posthumously award Alvarez the Key to the City.