Duxbury Firefighter John E. Thomas died unexpectedly on Sunday, leaving behind a daughter and a 28-year career with the Duxbury Fire Department.
Fire Chief Kevin Nord announced the death of Thomas, 57, Sunday afternoon via Twitter. Thomas was not on duty at the time, but his death is considered an “active duty death” because he was employed as an active firefighter at the time. Captain Rob Reardon said the death was “medical in nature” but the actual cause of death is still under investigation.
DuxburyFirefighter Timmy Geary said Thomas was a staple in the firehouse. Thomas took Geary under his wing when Geary was hired in 2005. Since then, Thomas and Geary worked as partners, with Thomas teaching Geary as much about the field as possible. Both firefighters worked at the Ashdod Station and spent numerous 24-hour shifts together.
“I got to know a more intimate side of Jack that most other firefighters didn’t,” Geary said, as he reflected on the years he spent learning from Thomas.
Geary said Thomas was a “salty” guy who wasn’t afraid to speak his mind but who was willing to go out of his way to help his colleagues whenever possible.
“He was a spirited guy,” Geary said. “He was fiery and didn’t hold back and we loved him for it.”
Since there are fewer building fires these days and much of the department is comprised of younger firefighters, Geary said Thomas provided invaluable insight into how best to fight fires. Thomas spent a lot of time working on fires throughout the 70s and 80s when building fires were more frequent, and taught Geary everything he knew.
Geary said his first big fire was on Keene Street, and he was working the hose line with Thomas. When he went to open the hose, Thomas stopped him and walked him through the appropriate stages of fighting a fire before utilizing the hose.
“It was the small things just like that,” Geary said.
Thomas took a personal interest in Geary, teaching him as much as he could.
“He was hard on me at times, but it was because he wanted me to be good,” Geary said. “He always told me, ‘I’m going to leave my mark on you. I want you to carry the torch when I’m gone and teach these guys how it’s done.’”
Outside of work, Thomas was an avid motorcyclist who took his Harley Davidson on trips to Laconia and destinations out west, helping out with fundraisers for kids with cancer and giving back to the community. Geary said he will be deeply missed by the department and the town.
“Jack is irreplaceable,” he said. “Deep down he had the biggest heart; he’d give the shirt off his back for any of us.”