James Mahoney, an Army veteran and educator who became a Northport Fire Department volunteer in the early 1970s, has died.
A native of Northport, Mahoney died Nov. 13 of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and congestive heart failure while surrounded by family and friends, according to his son, Luke Timothy, of Patchogue. He was 83.
Mahoney’s son described him as a humble and simple man who preferred a tall glass of beer to pomp and circumstance.
Aside from his years of service in the military and the fire department, Mahoney spent his final years fundraising for charities including the Suffolk County Volunteer Firefighters’ Burn Center Fund.
“He’d give the shirt off his back to anyone and he was the epitome of volunteer service,” said his son.
Born in Crab Meadow in December 1932, Mahoney graduated from Power Memorial Academy high school in Manhattan, and from Iona College with a bachelor’s degree in education. He went on to receive his master’s degree at the SUNY Oneonta, where he met and married his wife of 54 years, Sophie, in June 1959.
Mahoney was soon drafted into the Army, where he served as a clerk in Germany for about four years during the 1950s. When he returned, he and his wife started a family and Mahoney became an educator, teaching in the Syosset school district at Bayliss Elementary school. He later worked in the Middle Country school district, from which he retired as principal of New Lane Elementary school.
Then, in 1973, Mahoney joined the Northport Volunteer Fire Department, where he was assigned to Hook and Ladder Co. 1. Mahoney soon took over the department’s fire education course, which was directed at children in the neighborhood.
During his time in the fire department, Mahoney amassed honors including New York State Firefighter of the Year in 2002 and Northport fireman of the year in 1991 and 2002. He was also awarded the Suffolk County Firefighters’ Emerald Society lifetime achievement award, to be awarded at a ceremony hours after his funeral and burial.
Mahoney also was a lifetime member of the Northport American Legion chapter. He served on the congressman’s interview committee, where he screened applicants to U.S. military academies such as West Point and Annapolis.
After a stint in hospice care, Mahoney chose to spend his remaining time at home. In his final message to family and friends, written with his son Luke Timothy, Mahoney thanked everyone and told them how proud he was to know them.
“It just shows what a remarkable man he has been and what an inspiration he’s been, not only to his own children but to the community at large,” Luke Timothy said.
In addition to his son, Mahoney is survived by son Kevin, of Frederick, Maryland; daughters Kathleen Fristensky of East Northport, and Maureen Kiefaber of Northport; and five grandchildren. He was predeceased by his wife.
Services were held at St. Philip Neri Parish Center on Prospect Avenue in Northport. He was buried at the parish cemetery on Laurel Road in East Northport.