Thomas Mansfield II, who ‘bled Vigilant,’ laid to rest by family and fire company

Thomas Mansfield II, who ‘bled Vigilant,’ laid to rest by family and fire company

Great Neck Plaza mourns the loss of a hero and dedicated community member, Thomas Mansfield II, who died July 11 at the age of 87. The solemn halls of Vigilant Engine & Hook & Ladder Co., where Mansfield was sworn in, now bear witness to a somber sight: a coffin adorned with an honorary firefighter hat.

Mansfield had been posthumously bestowed with the honor of honorary chief, a tribute befitting his 57 years of unwavering devotion to the company. As the Firematic memorial service unfolded July 14 at the headquarters in Great Neck Plaza, the roll call was conducted, and although not everyone could answer, it was clear that the spirit of Mansfield would live on within the Vigilant Fire Company halls.

Mansfield dedicated 35 years of his life to serving as an administrative officer for the company. On his 30th birthday, Aug. 2, 1965, he joined the fire company and became the recording secretary, a position he held with pride from 1968 until 2003. In 1984, he took on the role of president for a year.

His unwavering commitment and passion for the company earned him the title of Fireman of the Year in 1973 and again in 1994, a testament to his unparalleled service. Known as the living encyclopedia of all things Vigilant, Mansfield was the go-to person for any inquiries, always ready with answers and guidance.

Philip Katz, president of the company, fondly remembers Mansfield saying “he bled vigilant.” Recalling a transformative experience, Katz said, “In 2003, that was the year that a bright-eyed, three-year member, me, ran against Tom Mansfield for recording secretary after he was in the office for 35 years. Yes, it definitely changed my relationship with Tom. But I think it ultimately did for the better.”

In that year, Katz won the election, and Mansfield was frustrated, but that didn’t stop Mansfield from inviting the younger man into his home to properly teach him the role. Under his guidance, Katz discovered a wealth of knowledge and expertise in his basement that he compares to a vigilant data center with rare computerized systems.

“I knew that I was stepping into shoes that I would never fill,” Katz said. “But Tom made it into a science that nobody could duplicate. So, I figured I’d just do my best.”

Edward Canfield, a lifelong friend and former chief, shares a single word that encapsulates the essence of Mansfield: “unique.” No one could match his passion and dedication. Thomas had four great loves in his life: his family, his beloved dogs like his St. Bernard and golden retrievers, his job as the head X-ray technician at North Shore Hospital, where he served for 45 years, and, of course, the Vigilant Firehouse.

To Mansfield., the Fire Department was not just an organization but a part of his family. His daughter and son, Patty Wisniewski and Michael Mansfield, both recalled growing up in the firehouse, likening it to a family. Together they made memories of climbing over the trucks and having fun in the firehouse.

Wisniewski said her father’s spirit will linger in the firehouse, along with his lasting legacy. “It was really important to him to continue that legacy of the high quality of the Fire Department,” she said, “All of his years of service are just a huge mark that he’s leaving behind. The fact that they made him honorary chief…it means so much to us and his legacy with us. That will continue.”

Michael Mansfield reflected on the invaluable lessons he learned from his father: “I think what I would take from him is the fact that once you commit to a cause, you see it through, you don’t give up.”


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