When Ted A. Stafford Jr. was a student at St. Paul’s School in Garden City he worked for the post office during Christmas vacations and spring break — lugging mail in a large leather satchel.

“The bag was extremely heavy — with magazines and everything,” his sister, Helen Daikun of Southampton Village, recalled. “And one day a policeman helped him across a very wide street and I think that cemented it for him — he wanted to become a police officer.”

The desire to help others Stafford saw in that police officer not only led to Stafford becoming a Southampton Town police officer, but also to joining the Sag Harbor Fire Department as a volunteer and serving as a village trustee and deputy mayor.

Stafford, 73, of Sag Harbor, died May 2 of cardiac arrest after collapsing in the driveway of his home about two hours after dispatching a medevac call for a child who had fallen down a flight of stairs.

“He cared about and took care of his family first and foremost but he was a community man,” said his son, GQ Magazine fashion editor Ted Stafford III, 42, of Manhattan. “He had strong family values but he did for the community — always.”

Daikun said her younger brother had a kind heart and “collected friends.”

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Born in Queens, Stafford grew up in Floral Park. His family spent summers in Sag Harbor, where he met his future wife, Frances Trunzo. In his spare time the pair enjoyed fishing and scalloping in Sag Harbor, playing cards and doing jigsaw puzzles.

Stafford joined the Navy after graduating from St. Paul’s preparatory school in 1959.

The couple was married in October 1965, and about a year later moved to Sag Harbor full time. His wife died in 1998.

Stafford was a 48-year member of the fire department, served for 20 years as a Southampton Town police officer before retiring, and was president of the Southampton Town Patrolman’s Benevolent Association for 12 years.

Southampton Town Police Lt. Michael Zarro, who is engaged to Stafford’s daughter, Maureen Stafford of Hampton Bays, got to know Ted Stafford on a professional and personal level.

“I met him when I started with the police department in 1988, then I got to know him better through his daughter,” Zarro said. “He was just an all-around great guy. He was very easygoing and family-oriented, but when he was PBA president he was always away from his family because he spent a lot of time in Albany [dealing with police union matters].”

Sag Harbor Fire Chief Thomas Gardella remembered Stafford as “very much a gentleman” and someone who “knew everyone” because of his affiliations with police and fire departments.

“It’s a huge loss for our department,” Gardella said. “He was our honor guard. He would lead parades and funerals — he called cadence for us — he kept us in step.”

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Gardella said Stafford’s death is being considered a line of duty death because it happened shortly after he made the dispatch call.

“It was a stressful thing,” Gardella said. “He lived less than a quarter of a mile from the firehouse and he never made it into the [Staffords’] house.”

Stafford also is survived by son John Stafford and daughter Andrea McAree, both of Sag Harbor; sister Priscilla Stafford of Sag Harbor; and six grandchildren.

A funeral was held Monday at Old Whalers Church in Sag Harbor, and the burial was at Oakland Cemetery in the village.