Thomas McGovern saw the history of Bellmore unfold in a way most people do not — as a resident for 80 years. He watched the community evolve from farmland to a dense suburb. After McGovern died at 96, friends and family gathered for his funeral service on Aug. 29.
McGovern moved to Long Island as a teenager in the late 1930s, after living in the Bronx. He attended Wellington C. Mepham High School in its earliest days. The building for the high school was finished in 1935, and the first class attended in 1937. McGovern earned his diploma in 1938 as a member of Mepham’s first graduating class.
That was just the beginning of McGovern’s history in Bellmore, though. Over the decades, he contributed to the community with pride. “His roots were here,” said Frances Finocchiaro, McGovern’s daughter. “His favorite pastime was conversation. He loved sharing his life experiences and his history in Bellmore.”
McGovern’s profession was delivering Bellmorites’ letters and packages as a letter carrier. He was well liked, and exchanged pleasantries with people before continuing on his route. It was a perfect job for him, said Dennis Rich, a friend and colleague at the Bellmore Fire Department.
“He enjoyed it,” Rich said. “He delivered mail close to home and got to see his family here. He would stop home and eat lunch with his daughter.”
McGovern also belonged to the Fire Department. Finocchiaro described it as a “big part of his life,” where he made friends who were like family.
“Tom had an important and active career in the Bellmore Fire Department,” said Rich, who is now the department chaplain. “It spanned over 77 years.”
McGovern joined Hose Company No. 1, the division of the Bellmore Fire Department that actively fights fires, on March 23, 1941. His decade-plus of work there earned him the position of first lieutenant of the Hose Company in 1954, and he was also active in the first aid squad into the 1960s. He continued his career to become a fire inspector in 1965, and second lieutenant of the fire police squad in 2010.
He performed on the department’s drill team in the 1940s, which at the time was called the Mules. (Today it is known as the Ball Breakers.) McGovern also served in the Army during World War II.
After achieving the rank of first lieutenant of the fire police squad in 2011, McGovern served as the fire captain in 2012 and 2013 when he was in his late 80s.
“He enjoyed the simple things,” Finocchiaro said. “He liked to read, and he liked playing the piano. But mostly, he loved conversation and sharing fun facts.”
One of McGovern’s favorite activities when he was younger, Finocchiaro said, was spending Saturday afternoons in Central Park with his father and two siblings, John and Betty. They enjoyed the hot summer weather on the water in a sailboat — a story McGovern shared throughout his life.
“Tom was an interesting man to talk to,” Rich said. “He was a good man.”
“He was a great father and a wonderful grandfather,” Finocchiaro said.
He is also survived by his wife, Adeala, grandchildren Thomas and Alexandria, and son-in-law Louis Finocchiaro.