The last thing that Harold J. (Jimmy) Lyons, Sr. did before he died on October 30, 1992 was help save a total stranger who was injured in a car crash. But then helping others was a way of life for the popular Brookhaven Fire Commissioner and Ambulance volunteer.
Jim, as he was known in the community, at age 63 suffered an apparent heart attack just after assisting in extricating a victim in a car crash on Sunrise Highway in Shirley, New York. He was backing up the fire department’s heavy rescue truck when the attack occurred.
The well-known husband, father, and community volunteer was a lifelong resident of Brookhaven Hamlet, a small community on eastern Long Island, where he rode the Rural Route as a mail carrier for 28 years before retiring four years prior to his passing. Upon retiring from the Rural Route Service, he attained an award for 29 consecutive years of safe driving from the National Safety Council. Jim was the very first mail carrier in Brookhaven so he knew everyone and everyone knew him.
Jim was a life member of both the Brookhaven Volunteer Fire Department and the Brookhaven Ambulance Company. He entered the fire service in 1945 at the age of 16. He became the youngest Chief of the department in 1958 at the age of 29. After serving as Chief, he then went on to serve as Commissioner of Brookhaven Fire District for more than 25 years till his passing, serving a total of 47 active years in the department. He was named Brookhaven Firefighter of the year in 1975 for his dedication to the department. In addition, Jim was a member of the Suffolk County Department of Fire Safety and served as a County Deputy Fire Coordinator. He was also past President of the Brookhaven Town Fire Chiefs Council and the Long Island Sunrise Association. In 1988 the local community paper, The Long Island Advance named him “Man of the Year” for his dedication to family, friends, and community.
Jim was a veteran, serving in the Korean conflict as a Sergeant, 1st class, in the 24th & 25th Infantry Divisions. He was awarded a Bronze Star by the President of the United States and numerous other medals for action in combat. When the local war memorial on South Country Road became in disrepair, and was in danger of being abandoned by the County, Jim organized a group of volunteers to renovate the memorial and had the Fire District acquire the land so they could maintain it and forever ensure the memorials existence in the community.
Jim also served as President of the local cemetery association, Oaklawn Cemetery, located on property just north of where he grew up as a boy. Jim was dedicated to maintaining the history contained in the cemetery. He worked tirelessly on maintaining old grave markers and the overall upkeep of the cemetery to ensuring the appearance reflected the respect deserved by those who were laid to rest there.
He was also a master craftsman and builder who built a number of local homes in the area. He loved to tinker and do small projects. He loved the outdoors, animals, and life in general. He was a happy man and had a way of making others around him calm.
Jim was the youngest of four brothers and two sisters. All of his brothers were life members of the Fire Department. Unlike today where everyone is mobile and moves, all of the Lyons children grew up and lived in town for their entire lives. Jim father, Robert Lyons, Sr., was a charter member and the second Chief of the department. The land where the current fire headquarters stands today, on Montauk Highway, was donated by the Lyons family after an explosion and fire burnt down the old fire house located at the corner of Seeley Street and Bridge Place. So you can say the Lyons family is very intertwined in the fire service.
His family was extremely important to him. Gloria, his wife and Jim, Jr. his son were the pride and joy of his life. Family vacations and spending time at home in the yard with family were among his enjoyments. Jim’s son carried on the family’s involvement in the fire service as the third generation. He was a member for 14 years before moving out of the community and was a past company lieutenant. He continues as an Associate Member and has volunteered with the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation Memorial Weekends and other activities.
One of Jim’s favorite activities was to visit the local elementary schools during fire prevention month and teach youngsters about fire prevention. He got a big thrill out of seeing the children. The community as a whole remembers Jim’s kindness and smile that was on display every day as he delivered the mail. Jim was always smiling and will be forever remembered as a happy man who truly enjoyed life.