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Thomas Ward: Massapequa man turned love of cars into a career 

Thomas Ward and his longtime girlfriend, Georgette Valera.

Thomas Ward and his longtime girlfriend, Georgette Valera. Credit: Courtesy Georgette Valera


When the Ward children were little, they would constantly joke with their mother that Thomas Ward, the third child, was her favorite. She would laugh it off, never quite denying it.

But the children were never envious, believing their brother had earned the designation, said his sister Mary Roulette, of West Islip.

“He would always spend his time helping others,” said his sister Catherine Loechner, of North Merrick. “He would take a vacation just to help [my mom] do all the home repairs around her house.”

“He was very good-natured,” Roulette added. “He always did the right thing.”

Ward, a resident of Massapequa, died on April 25 from the coronavirus, just a few weeks after his 60th birthday on April 3.

Born and raised in Wantagh, Ward always had an affinity for cars and fixing them. In his early 20s, he owned a 1969 Chevrolet Chevelle Super Sport SS and could often be found tinkering under the hood. He turned his passion for motor vehicles into a career, working as a mechanic at Park Avenue Service in Wantagh before joining the FDNY Ambulance Fleet Services in 1993. Ward worked his way up from mechanic to supervisor of mechanics, ensuring ambulances were repaired, serviced and dispatched up until his battle with COVID-19.

Ward moved to Massapequa in 1987 and quickly joined the Massapequa Fire Department, of which he was a volunteer member for 32 years. Part of Engine Company No. 1 at the West End Firehouse, Ward would drive the truck to fires, pump water, and train new recruits.

“He was just one of the guys that everybody loved,” said Massapequa Fire Department Chief David Batt. “That’s a rarity when you have almost 300 members. He was just a very quiet, unassuming gentle giant kind of guy … He was one of those guys you could always count on.”

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“He was happy going to a call and responding to a fire emergency, but he also liked flipping burgers at the company barbecue or dressing up as Santa at Christmastime for the kids,” added his brother Joseph Ward, of North Bellmore.

As he grew older, Ward learned almost everything there was to know about all types of vehicles and became a collector of Lionel trains, cars, and bicycles. He would often attend train and car shows with his girlfriend of 10 years, Georgette Valera.

The two first met in high school, but reconnected later in life through a mutual friend. On Christmas Eve in 2009, Ward left a card under Valera’s windshield, asking her out on a date. She replied via email and by January 2010, they were a couple.

“We just found each other at a late stage in life and clicked,” said Valera, of Wantagh. “He was the love of my life. He was just a loving, kind human being. I know he loved me, and I loved him … He had a good sense of humor. He always knew how to make me laugh.”

In addition to his brother, two sisters and Valera, Ward is survived by sons Patrick and Brian, brothers John and James Ward, and many nieces and nephews.

A small service with full salute from the Massapequa Fire Department and New York City Fire Department was held on May 12 in front of the West End Firehouse and at St. Charles Cemetery in East Farmingdale. A memorial service will be held at a future date.

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