Chief Thomas J. Ryan once described Tom ‘as a good friend‚ fellow firefighter‚ teacher and an exceptional Chief Officer’ and this description was one many agreed with throughout his lifetime and even remember him now as such. Tom was a real go-getter who wanted the best for his firefighters and his community. He studied his community and found the things that were needed and made it happen. Tom was a believer in continuing education for himself‚ his firefighters and his family. He was enrolled in the United States Fire Administration’s National Fire Academy Executive Fire Officer Program and was very active professionally with the International Association of Fire Chiefs: Southeastern Association of Fire Chiefs; Florida Fire Chiefs’ Association; Florida Fire Marshals’; Inspectors’ Association‚ Florida Executive Fire Officer Association and chairman for the Okaloosa Fire-Rescue Organization.
When asked about his professional career and what he was most proud of he wrote:
Survival‚ that despite what storms and set backs‚ that I have reached a place in my career that many people said that I would not‚ nor could not achieve. I’m respected by my employees as a leader and have protected my community for more that twenty five years as my family has for more than a century. My pride is greatest each time I see my son climb on one of my apparatus’ to do the same as the past 5 generations before him. Pride is in tradition. Remembered as the Chief that everyone wanted to work for because of the encouragement and opportunities that I gave to my people and for them to look to the examples that I set and strive to set those same examples for the people that will work for them one day. For always looking to the future in the Fire Service and always working toward the future that I never settled for anything less than the best for or from my people and that I always worked to provide the best for our communities.
Tom always made sure that whoever asked would receive help while he was Chief. Be it lending his own son’s car seat to a family in need of one after theirs burned in a fire‚ to making sure his firefighters received food and drinks during a long-lasting fire. The best to describe Tom is through the poem his daughter wrote him for Father’s day and changed for his Funeral.
By Tiffany Renee Santner
Helping others is what you do
Risking your life to save another’s‚
Protecting those in danger‚
Of meeting a fiery fate.
When your work called you to duty‚
You went without a second thought‚
You were one of the ones to give‚
A young child‚
Her happy smiles and tears.
A little more time.
A teen who has wronged‚
A second chance.
Above all else‚
You make your children proud‚
Because we know that no matter what‚
You will live in our hearts‚
teaching us what is right.
No matter what happens‚
For this day forth‚
We want to thank you‚
For all you have done and given us.
So we thank you‚
And wish from the bottom of our hearts‚
That we always make you proud.
We will forever miss you.