Construction executive John Thomann of Huntington was pretty good with his hands, whether working on his vintage Pontiac GTO or fixing up a new home, but it was his openness with people that he will be remembered for, family and friends said.
"He was a real person in a rough and tough business. He always found it in his heart to have an open door. Whether you were a CEO or a laborer, he always found the time to sit down and have a conversation about who you were, what you did. That's what made him special," said Bert Rahm, who worked with Thomann at Turner Construction.
Thomann, 50, was diagnosed with cancer six years ago and died July Fourth in a hospice, his family said. The next day, his wife of 22 years, Kathleen, insisted on holding the annual Independence Day get-together that he had hosted for years.
"It was kind of bittersweet that he had passed away July Fourth. Kathleen insisted that we hold the party," said his brother Andrew of Merrick. "He loved American history, Gettysburg, the Civil War, World War I and World War II. I walked into the shed in the backyard the other day and there were nine American flags hanging there."
Thomann was born in Queens Village in 1964 and moved with family to Merrick in 1968. He attended Sacred Heart School, Maria Regina High School and Nassau Community College. He got his bachelor's in civil engineering from Manhattan College in 1987.
He was still living in Merrick in 1994 when he and a friend went to the aid of four clammers who got separated from their boat in Haunts Creek and were in distress. Though they rescued three of the men, one died.
After graduation, Thomann went to work for New York-based Turner Construction and rose to become vice president and general manager of one of its divisions, Turner Interiors. He worked on its major projects, including One World Trade Center, the renovation of the Rainbow Room in Rockefeller Center and the new Yankee Stadium, the company said.
He was active in several charities and had been honored by Catholic Charities of Brooklyn and Queens, St. Dominic's home in Blauvelt, Rockland County, and the St. Francis Food Pantries and Shelters.
Thomann is also survived by his son James, 12; daughter Jacqueline, 14; sisters Theresa Haar of East Northport and Susie Murphy of Merrick; and brothers Joseph of Medford, New Jersey, and Richard of South Salem, Westchester County.
Viewing is from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday at Connell Funeral Home, 934 New York Ave., Huntington Station. A funeral service is at 9:30 a.m. Thursday at St. Elizabeth of Hungary Roman Catholic Church at 175 Wolf Hill Rd. in Melville. Burial will follow at St. Charles/Resurrection Cemeteries in Farmingdale.
Donations in his memory can be made to the Hospice Care Network of Woodbury or the Melanoma Research Foundation.