EASTON, Conn. – Russell Neary worked for 33 years at General Re in Stamford. His heart, however, was always centered on his family and his community. The Easton volunteer fireman died Monday while on a call at the height of Hurricane Sandy.
“We used to kid him that General Re was just a hobby for him,’’ said Roy Hornbeck, who worked with Neary for 22 years and was his manager and close friend. “The firehouse was his career. Between that and being with his family, that’s what he loved to do more than anything.”
Neary, 55, died Monday when he was hit by falling limb while answering a fire call at about 7:45 p.m. Neary was a lieutenant with the Easton Fire Department. His was the first death on the Easton force. He is survived by his wife, Mary Anne, and two daughters.
Neary also became a track and field official and regularly attended cross country and track meets at Joel Barlow High School. His daughter, Caitlin, is a distance runner for the team. Neary regularly contributed pictures to The Daily Voice for Joel Barlow races.
“When he got involved with something, he jumped in with both feet,’’ Hornbeck said. “He really got involved in the community. He used to take vacation time so that he could watch his daughter run track or cross country. And he really hated it if a fire call came in and he was here at work.”
Neary graduated from Fairfield Prep and Holy Cross. He was also a soccer coach, president of the Easton Fire Department and an MRT with Easton EMS. His brother, Peter, is the Easton fire marshal. Neary had been a member of the Easton Fire Department for more than 10 years.
Neary was a vice president at General Re as an underwriter in the Global Ocean Marine division. His colleagues learned of the tragedy Tuesday, but most employees were not at the office until Thursday.
“It’s not easy today,’’ Hornbeck said. “Workers have been coming to his cubicle and broken down and cried. He was an extrovert and everybody knew him and liked him. It’s just really hard.”