Edward Corrigan Put His Family And Community Before Himself For 89 Years – Southampton Village & Surrounding Areas

Apr 29, 2019 5:26 PM

By Anisah Abdullah

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Years ago in the early springtime, Edward Corrigan visited dozens of people’s homes throughout Southampton Village and rototilled their gardens simply because he wanted to lend a helping hand. He comically became known as the Rototiller Man.

That was just one of the many ways Mr. Corrigan assisted others in the community during his 89 years of life before he passed away over a week ago.

“He was always there to lend a hand to anyone that needed it,” his son, Edward Corrigan Jr., said. “And he was not looking for the recognition.”

Mr. Corrigan was the longest active member in the history of the Southampton Fire Department, volunteering for 70 years in the department’s Hook and Ladder Company. He was also the head usher at the Basilica Parish of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary during Sunday morning mass. At other churches in the village, he became a familiar face from always offering to assist with any construction or improvement projects.

Mr. Corrigan rototilled his own garden too, where he spent much of his free time. He grew a variety of fruits and vegetables and always gave some away to neighbors and friends. The remainder ended up on his family’s dinner table after his wife, Helen, prepared them in the kitchen.

Mr. Corrigan was part of the sixth or seventh generation of Corrigans living in the village, continuing a long history that made his family name well-recognized. He was born in 1930 at Southampton Hospital and grew up on Moses Lane, later building his house a couple of hundred feet away on the family’s farmland when he was ready to start a family of his own.

It was in that house, on the corner of Dodge Street and Corrigan Street—named after their family—that he and his wife raised three children, Maurice, Edward Jr. and Hope. Mr. Corrigan’s namesake and wife Alison had three sons, Luke, 17, Wyatt, 14, and Gardner, 12, who were Mr. Corrigan’s only grandchildren.

Friends and family members described Mr. Corrigan by a few endearing words: humble, kind, loving and a family man. Throughout his 15-month battle with cancer that he fought up until the end, he still exhibited those qualities to his loved ones and the community.

Being a part of the fire department for 70 years, he became someone who many fellow firefighters looked up to. They shared that Mr. Corrigan taught them not only about the history of the department and the village, but also about how to be a genuinely kind and generous person.

“He was the kind of person that you just like,” the department’s Hook and Ladder captain, Sean King, said. “He had a great temperament, he had a great personality, he was always very helpful, he wasn’t, like, opinionated and he was always behind the scenes.”

Mr. King added that Mr. Corrigan was active in the department up until about six months ago, responding to calls on the fire trucks and offering advice to the newer members.

“I mean who can volunteer 70 years? Think about it. I can barely get out of my own way. I’m in 15 years and I’m thinking, ‘Whew, this is exhausting,’” Mr. King continued. “He’s been in 70—that’s a lot of meetings … You’re out at least once a week, minimum, and he did that for 70 years.”

Emmanuel Escobar, the 2nd assistant fire chief, shared how Mr. Corrigan influenced him to pursue a chief position. He said that for the last six years, Mr. Corrigan always called him “chief” despite being a regular firefighter. The name stuck in his head after hearing it so often that he eventually applied to be a chief when the opportunity presented itself.

“He would always look at me and say, ‘Hey, chief,’ and I would look at him and I go, ‘Oh, that’s never going to happen, trust me,’ and he’d always say, ‘Oh, you’ll see,’” Assistant Chief Escobar said. When he became the 2nd assistant chief last year, he visited Mr. Corrigan at his home to tell him the good news.

The Corrigans’ history in the fire department began with Mr. Corrigan’s father, Maurice, who was a member of the Hook and Ladder Company. The team is responsible for driving the fire trucks and doing search and rescue missions. Family tradition ensued and every Corrigan generation has remained in that company since.

“There has been a Corrigan that has driven every ladder truck that the Southampton Fire Department has owned since its inception,” Edward Jr. said.

Mr. Corrigan’s sons, Maurice and Edward Jr., have both been active members for at least 30 years. His grandson Luke is a junior member and applied to join the Hook and Ladder Company when he turns 18 in August. His younger grandson Wyatt is in the process of becoming a junior member.

“You could see Ed in his sons—dedicated, willing to help anybody and always full of knowledge and advice,” Fire Chief Anthony Stevens said. Mr. Stevens, who is 59 now, said he was a young boy when he first met Mr. Corrigan, who was “rototilling everybody’s vegetable gardens.”

Mr. Corrigan’s father, Maurice, was the first driver of the department’s first truck, a 1912 American LaFrance that was used until 1946. Mr. Corrigan later drove it occasionally as an antique truck in local parades.

When Luke joins the company in the fall, he will be inheriting his grandfather’s badge number, 346. Mr. Corrigan was able to tell Luke of the news a few months ago and his grandson was “very excited” to receive that honor, Edward Jr. said.

“He was a true gentleman,” Chief Stevens later added. “He was a class act. And not just in the fire department—he was like that in the community. He’d do anything for anybody.”

The 1912 truck was used to carry Mr. Corrigan’s casket during his funeral procession on Thursday, April 25, in honor of his service and family dedication. The department needed to repair parts of the truck’s engine in the days leading up to the service in order to have it running, his son said.

It was decorated with ribbons and flowers to transport his casket from the Brockett Funeral Home in Southampton to the Basilica Parish of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, where the funeral was held, and finally to the Sacred Hearts Cemetery, where he was buried.

For the funeral, fire departments from Bridgehampton, North Sea, Hampton Bays, Quogue and Sag Harbor helped organize the procession and used their trucks to display the American flag over Hill Street.

The Reverend Michael Smith of the Shinnecock Presbyterian Church gave a eulogy at the funeral service, sharing stories about his longtime friendship with Mr. Corrigan.

“He did the right thing simply because it was the right thing to do,” the reverend repeated throughout the eulogy.

When Mr. Corrigan wasn’t devoting time to help his community, he was devoted to being a good husband, father and grandfather at home. He was married for 55 years to his wife, who he called the “love of his life,” his son said.

His children considered him their role model. They followed in his footsteps and learned many lessons about how to be a good person.

“He had a special smile, a caring heart and a warm embrace with anyone who he knew or encountered him,” his only daughter, Hope, said via email. “He was always full of stories to tell us about life (past, present and future) and never let things get him down.”

“My dad was my hero,” Edward Jr. said, with tears beginning to well in his eyes.

His daughter-in-law, Alison, said that he loved when his grandsons visited his home and jumped in the swimming pool. “He got the greatest joy out of the boys being there,” she said, adding that he supported their academics and always encouraged them to pursue their individual interests.

Mr. Corrigan passed away in his home on April 20 with his loved ones by his side—just the way he wanted it to be.


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