Retired Lieutenant Thomas served as a firefighter in Queens, New York, for twenty years. In 1967, Thomas was among 15 firefighters of Hook and Ladder Company 127 and Engine 298 commended for their bravery during the 1967 Jamaica Queens gas explosion. He participated in protecting residents in a 3-block area that was besieged by the 13-alarm fire. He and his colleagues were awarded medals to commend them for their quick action. The department released a statement saying, “The honors are well deserved. If it weren’t for these men, a lot of people would have lost their lives.” Tom’s family fondly recalls the pride he felt when he was bestowed with this award and photographed with New York City Mayor, John Lindsay. He proudly displayed this picture, medal, and firefighting helmet in his home in East Meadow, NY, for years. This memorabilia followed him to his residence at Clare Bridge of Cape Coral in Cape Coral, FL. Tom’s history of service was not limited to firefighting; he taught physical education for 10 years, served in the Navy for 3 years and raised 5 children with his wife of 45 years. Though illness has affected his ability to recall some of his life, his memories of his firefighting days are undimmed.
Tom’s wish was simple: to once again take a ride on a fire engine. Wish of a Lifetime and Brookdale Senior Living coordinated with the Cape Coral Fire Department to make Tom’s wish a reality. On December 4th, 2012, Cape Coral firefighters enthusiastically arrived at their brother firefighter’s residence to take him for a ride. While the firefighters assisted Tom onto the engine, his son Jimmy said, “he is loving this, it brings back lots of old memories, and this is just one of his best days.” Cape Coral firefighters were proud to salute one of their own, and thanked him for his service in their ranks. Sadly, Lieutenant Tom passed away just five days later. Cape Coral firefighters posted a tribute to him on their Facebook page: “To our Brother Firefighter, may you rest in peace. Heaven is now a brighter place!” We are truly humbled and honored to have taken part in granting Tom one of his final Wishes.