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Sep 9, 2009 2:26 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Westhampton Beach Fire Department mourns loss of Chief Steve Smith

Sep 9, 2009 2:26 PM

Just before 11 a.m. Tuesday, a line of antique fire trucks, one carrying the casket of Westhampton Beach Fire Department Chief Steve Smith, left the Follett and Werner Funeral Home on Mill Road in the village.

The funeral procession then slowly passed under an oversize American flag—one of three decorating the village Tuesday—on the corner of Mill Road 
and Main Street. The antique truck, which was followed by other fire trucks, emergency vehicles and several motorcycles, continued east on Main 
Street and over Turkey Bridge and 
carried Chief Smith’s casket to the Westhampton Presbyterian Church on Meeting House Road on Quiogue for a funeral mass.

More than 200 mourners attended the ceremony to share fond memories of Chief Smith, who died Friday morning, September 4, due to complications from surgery. He was 57.

Following the mass, the funeral procession, again led by the truck carrying Chief Smith’s casket, passed in front of the Summit Boulevard home that he shared with his wife, Peggy Lawless. The procession also slowed in the traffic circle near Westhampton Beach Village Hall, giving village employees a moment to step outside and honor the fallen fire chief and Westhampton Beach Department of Public Works employee.

Westhampton Beach Fire Department member John Bancroft said that Chief Smith, who has led the volunteer outfit since January, was having a stent put in his stomach at Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead. He died Friday morning from complications caused by surgery.

Chief Smith and friend Paul Hoyle co-founded the Westhampton Beach Fire Department’s Junior Fire Company in 2004. The chief and Mr. Hoyle both served as head advisors for the group, which now boasts almost two dozen members.

“It was a very well-working relationship,” Mr. Hoyle said. “It was always a team effort. That was our big thing—team effort. That’s what firefighting is all about.”

Mr. Hoyle said even when Chief Smith took a step back from the program as he started moving up fire command ladder, he always made sure that the junior members got what they needed, whether it was uniforms or money for a trip.

“I’m going to miss him so bad,” Mr. Hoyle said. “It was a great partnership. Whenever I needed him, he always had some magic.”

Members of the department noted this week that Chief Smith’s involvement with the Junior Fire Department stemmed from his recognition that the future of any volunteer fire department is inextricably tied to the constant recruitment of teenagers.

The Junior Fire Department now boasts 22 teenagers, all between the ages of 12 and 18, who train with adult firefighters, but do not fight fires. The junior members hold fund-raisers and sponsor community service projects. Some go on to become volunteer firefighters and sign on with the Westhampton Beach Fire Department.

On Tuesday, September 8, the members of the Junior Fire Department were supposed to present a $1,000 check to the Fire Fighters Cancer Support Network. That event was postponed until next month because of Chief Smith’s death.

Chief Smith joined the Westhampton Beach Fire Department in 1993 and was a firefighter and driver before becoming an officer. He worked his way through the ranks of the department, holding the ranks of lieutenant and captain as well as 3rd and 2nd assistant chief. He served as the department’s 1st assistant chief for four years before being elected chief in December.

Volunteers described Chief Smith as an extremely dedicated member of the fire department, and one of them, Fred Bauer, characterized Chief Smith as a good chief.

“He was concerned about all the members,” Mr. Bauer said.

Mr. Bancroft added that Chief Smith was a family man and a very likeable person.

“He was a really good guy, that’s all there is to it,” Mr. Bancroft said. “Everyone liked Steve.”

In addition to volunteering with the department, Chief Smith was employed by the Westhampton Beach Village Department of Public Works. His specialty was electrical work, according to Mayor Conrad Teller.

“He could do a little of everything,” Mayor Teller said. “He was a good, handy employee. A loyal worker.”

Before moving to Westhampton Beach, Chief Smith served in the Port Jefferson Fire Department, the U.S. Marine Corps, and worked as a boat captain and contractor. He was also an active member of the Red Knights Motorcycle Club, a national organization of motorcycle-riding firefighters.

Friends recalled this week that Chief Smith enjoyed riding his Harley-Davidson motorcycle with his fellow firefighters.

A wake was held Monday, September 7, at Follett and Werner Funeral Home in Westhampton Beach. At firematic services that evening, department members laid Chief Smith’s bunker gear next to his casket. The funeral was held at the Westhampton Beach Presbyterian Church on Quiogue on Tuesday, September 8, with cremation to follow.

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RIP Chief Smith. Our thought and prayers go out to Chief Smith and his family.
By courtesy (43), Southampton on Sep 8, 09 12:43 AM
Our deepest and most sincere condolences on the sudden loss of Chief Smith.
Our prayers and thoughts are with his friends, his Brothers and Sisters of the WHBFD and especially his wife and daughter.
Billy Goldfeder and Family
Loveland-Symmes Fire Department
By Billy G (1), Loveland, Ohio on Sep 8, 09 3:03 AM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By jaboga (11), Speonk on Sep 8, 09 8:30 AM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Sep 8, 09 8:52 AM