The walls of Wantagh Fire Department Station 2, on Wantagh Avenue in Levittown, hold many stories, including that of Thomas L. Adams, a 59-year member of the department who died on May 12.
When Adams entered a room, he would light it up with his stories or jokes, Stephen Minogue, an ex-captain of Engine 2 and an ex-president of Company 2, said.
“His stories will live on in the firehouse and his joking matter, his story-telling and some of the sayings he left behind will be repeated for many years,” Minogue said, “because that was a lasting impression from him.”
At age 18 — some 47 years ago — Minogue was assigned to Engine 2, where Adams was already a member.
Adams, who often went by T.A., had joined the department in 1962, and served several times as the captain of Engine 2 and president of Company 2. “He came in with my dad,” Minogue said. “They came in together on the same night, and they served on the same rigs as captains.”
“He was a reliable pump operator and engine chauffe[u]r and taught his skills to many younger members,” the department’s public information officer, Kevin Regan, wrote on its Facebook page. “In addition, he had a great sense of humor and had a way of making younger members feel welcome.”
In recognition of his five decades of service, Adams was named an honorary chief in 2012.
He was a good firefighter, Minogue said, adding, “He got the job done.”
Adams’s daughter, Maureen Foley, said that her father always made her proud. “My mom worked nights — she was a nurse,” Foley said. “A call came in, you had to run into the car with him, he’d take you there and there was always someone to watch you at the firehouse.”
Minogue said he had known Adams since he was 7, because his father was also a longtime member of the department. Some of Adams’s five children were near the ages of Minogue and his siblings. When Minogue got married and had children of his own, Adams’s daughters would babysit his kids.
Foley, a former Suffolk County police officer, said that the Wantagh F.D. was like a second family, and she remembers the picnics and parades they attended with their families. “We never missed the Fourth of July parade until Covid last year,” she said. “We had our corner where my siblings all get together, the five of us, and all the grandchildren, as many as can get there . . . That’s our spot. He always knows where to look for us, because he was always a driver.”
Even when Adams was recovering from a medical procedure at Central Island Healthcare in Plainview, Foley said, members of the department gathered there on Feb. 27 to lift his spirits. “They brought trucks there,” Foley recounted. “All the guys showed up to salute him to bring his morale up. What they did was incredible.”
“When he did pass, they were there through everything,” Foley said. “The funeral was incredible. At the wake, the tribute that they did, with every engine out in front, the guys coming in saluting him, they were just being there with my family.”
“It was a nice send-off for him,” she added.
Many people reached out to Foley after her father died to let her know how much of an impact he had on their lives.
“Thomas was a very easy-going guy,” Minogue said. “He was just a gregarious guy, a lot of fun. You always knew when he was in the room. Always had a joke, always in an uplifting mood. Nice guy to hang out with.”
Adams is survived by his wife of more than 60 years, Barbara, and their children, 14 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. “The grandkids grew up with [the Fire Department] too,” Foley said. “They see the firehouse and they say, ‘That’s grandpa’s firehouse.’”