EASTON, Conn. – One year after his tragic death during Superstorm Sandy, Easton resident Russ Neary is still remembered with fondness by his former colleagues at Stamford-based General Reinsurance.
Neary, 55, became the first Easton firefighter killed in the line of duty Oct. 29, 2012, when he was struck and killed by a falling tree. Neary, a 13-year volunteer for the Easton Fire Department, had worked at the Stamford business for 34 years.
“When you lose someone with that experience, it’s amazing how much you miss them,’’ said Greig Rance, a senior vice president at General Reinsurance and Neary’s former supervisor. “It’s a huge hole to fill, and it will take years to fix. He was quite the character. He loved people, and knew everybody from the cleaning lady to the security guard to the people at the top of the company.”
An estimated 700 firefighters and first responders turned out for Neary's funeral last year in Easton, along with Gov. Dannel Malloy, Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal. Neary had a variety of outside interests but spent most of his volunteer time at the firehouse.
“He loved every aspect of it – the calls, training and camaraderie,’’ said his nephew, Chris Neary, at the eulogy for his uncle. “Even the mundane tasks like fundraising he would put in 110 percent.”
Rance remembered getting a call from colleague that Neary had been involved in an accident, and 30 minutes later got confirmation that he was killed. “It was pretty shocking,’’ he said. “It was chaotic.”
He said his colleagues plan to share time together to remember Neary, who was highly regarded by General Reinsurance’s clients.
“You walk around the office and there are pictures of Russ pinned up on the wall,’’ Rance said. “Or it’s the screen shot on their computers. It has taken a long time from a business perspective. It’s hard to fill a void with someone who has been in the business for 34 years. But the real loss is his personality and character in the office. It’s a shock to the system.”