A Sag Harbor man who was part of the "Red Ball Express" operation that supplied World War II troops died in a fire Monday at his bungalow home, Sag Harbor police said.
Wesley Carrion, 90, was found in a bedroom of his Hillside Drive East house, where he lived alone, police said.
A neighbor called authorities about 3:40 p.m. after seeing smoke coming out of the house, said Det. Jeffrey Proctor, who went to the scene.
When police and firefighters arrived, Proctor said, "one of the bedrooms, not the bedroom that he was in, was engulfed in flames."
Carrion's son said his father was drafted July 1943 into the Army, a place where he soon realized he could make his career as an African-American in an era of discrimination.
"The idea was you were green," said Wesley V. Carrion, of East Setauket. "There was no limitation just because you were black. Your limitation was how well you could do things. The idea of service lies pretty deep as well -- the idea you could serve and affect people positively."
Carrion was a driver on the famous Red Ball Express, a huge trucking operation that lasted nearly three months as Gen. George Patton swept across France and into Germany after the Nazis. Most of the men on the Express were black, and they raced to supply front-line troops with bullets, food and fuel.
The elder Carrion talked little about the war, his son said, but he loved the Army. He went to college to get a master's degree in history, then rejoined the Army, leaving as a major before working as a New York City probation officer.
But the Army was always in his father, including teaching Army tenets to his children, the son said: "His way of talking was just the way you'd get in a briefing -- one, two, three, four. People loved it.
"He was kindhearted. Everybody who ever met him outside the family would say he's the nicest, sweetest guy they'd ever met. He would just listen to them or helped them with a problem," he said.
Carrion said his father competed in national bridge tournaments. He won enough games to be titled a "life master" and loved the game because of its social aspects and the mind games of analyzing opponents, the son said.
His father also had a strong work ethic, the son said: "His goal was his family would have a better life than he did."
Carrion was taken to Southampton Hospital, police said.
"It's sad that he's gone," said next-door neighbor Gini Booth, who rushed home from work after learning there was a fire at Carrion's home. "Nobody should have to die that way."
She said Carrion had been a "fixture" in the community because he had lived there for years. "He'd been here for a long time so he was somebody everybody knew."
Suffolk County arson detectives are investigating the blaze.