FAIR HAVEN – A resident of Fair Haven has set a precedent for acting neighborly.
“I think God places a burden on all of our hearts. John was there for me to take care of … There but for the grace of God go I,” June Maltais said in an interview on May 28.
Maltais, who formerly lived in Fair Haven for 22 years, helped care for her ill neighbor, John J. Toomey, before he died on Jan. 10, 2014, at the age of 62.
During a meeting of the Borough Council on May 28, members of the Fair Haven First Aid Squad presented the governing body and members of the public with two remounted ambulances.
Each emergency vehicle has the words “In Memory of John J. Toomey” printed on its side.
The emergency responders explained that Toomey was an honorary member of the Fair Haven First Aid Squad and the Fair Haven Fire Company.
An honorary member is an individual who may not possess the certifications required to provide assistance on first aid calls, “but does so much for the good of the squad,” said Katy Frissora, the vice president of the first aid squad.
According to a May 29 Facebook post from the Fair Haven Fire Department, the ambulances were remounted, “meaning we reused the patient and equipment box from the older vehicles and mounted them onto new cabs. Thanks to the support of residents and businesses, the mayor and council, and the generosity of the late John Toomey … we were able to put the refurbished vehicles in service.”
Maltais and several emergency responders who knew Toomey said Maltais and Toomey lived one block apart. Toomey lived with his mother and after she died, Maltais said she “took care of (Toomey) for a very long time” until Toomey was placed in a nursing home.
“The town really embraced (Toomey), especially the fire department and the first aid squad,” Maltais said. “I (started) as just a neighbor who used to ask (Toomey), ‘How is your mom?’ ”
Maltais said Toomey’s father died in 1984.
Toomey never married or had children, Maltais said. She said Toomey enjoyed walking through Fair Haven and Red Bank until he was no longer able to do so.
Maltais said that as part of her efforts to help her neighbor, she spent time over the course of two years attempting to help Toomey obtain Social Security payments. She said that effort was ultimately successful.
“It took two-and-a-half years of fighting to finally get him on Social Security,” Maltais said.
Asked why she felt inclined to care for Toomey, Maltais said, “I couldn’t stand to see (Toomey) suffering. I just stepped in. I like to think everyone would do that if we saw the need. John was given by God to me to care for while he was here on Earth and I was able to do it. I learned a lot about the government and John was always grateful.”
Ex-Captain of the first aid squad Raquel Falotico, who said Toomey used to assist at the Fair Haven Firemen’s Fair, said, “You would always find (Toomey) wearing his Fair Haven Fire Company jacket … and once you join our family, you’re in the family forever.”
Maltais said Toomey left money in his will that went to the first aid squad.
“It was a beautiful thing what the fire department and the first aid squad did. They embraced him and (Toomey) really could have been one of those people who fell through the cracks. They didn’t let that happen,” Maltais said.