Dec. 13, 1919 - March 14, 2016
Even in his advanced years, Edward A. Tokasz couldn’t bear to sit by idly when the Doyle Hose Company No. 2 siren sounded: He needed to help someone whenever possible.
Mr. Tokasz, who lived just a block from the fire hall in Cheektowaga, usually was among the first to respond to an alarm. He also was one of the longest-serving volunteer firefighters in Western New York, a fixture at Doyle 2 who regularly drove the pumper truck on emergency calls into his 80s.
The World War II veteran, who spent 28 years on the Cheektowaga Zoning Board of Appeals, died Monday in Elderwood at Cheektowaga after a brief illness. He was 96.
Mr. Tokasz, the father of former state Assembly Majority Leader Paul A. Tokasz, remained an active member of Doyle 2 until his death. His responding to calls had tailed off in recent years, but he rarely missed monthly meetings of the fire company. At the February gathering, fellow firefighters honored him for 78 years of fire service.
“He loved it. He loved the camaraderie. He loved doing the work,” said Paul Ignaczak, engine lieutenant for the company. “He was a big influence on everybody here. There’s not a soul who belongs to Doyle 2 who doesn’t have a good story to tell about Ed.”
Mr. Tokasz often went by the nickname “88” – a reference to the first badge number he received in 1938, when he joined the fire company, following in the footsteps of his father, Frank, who was one of Doyle 2’s founding members.
The Buffalo native attended Our Lady of Czestochowa parish school and Sloan High School and worked as a gear machine operator at Farrel-Birmingham Co. after leaving school. He was drafted to serve in World War II in 1942. He worked as an airplane and engine mechanic for the Army Air Forces and spent two years in Europe until his discharge in 1945.
In the 1950s, he and his wife, Lucy, operated Tokasz Market, a grocery at Meadowbrook Parkway and Griswold Street in Cheektowaga. When the alarm rang, Mr. Tokasz sometimes set off for the fire station wearing a meat-cutters’ apron that flapped in the breeze during his sprint. The store closed in 1960, and he worked for many years as a machinist at Westinghouse Electric Corp. in Cheektowaga. Mr. Tokasz held a variety of leadership roles at the fire company and within the Doyle fire district, including 59 years as district treasurer.
Mr. Tokasz stopped driving fire trucks in 2005 at the direction of the fire district leadership. He was 85 at the time. But the district’s decision didn’t dull his enthusiasm for community service. Mr. Tokasz continued to respond to calls for several more years, riding a three-wheeled bike to the fire station and hopping in the pumper as a passenger instead of driving.
“Usually, if they needed fire police or something, he would do that,” said James E. Tokasz, eldest son and longtime Doyle member
Other times Mr. Tokasz would pull hoses, tend the radio or fill out report sheets. Only a broken hip in 2011 slowed him down.
“He was answering alarms until then, regularly, not just sporadically,” his son said.
Paul Tokasz described his father as a dedicated public servant and family man who gave selflessly to his country, community and church.
In his spare time, Mr. Tokasz enjoyed golfing, tending a small backyard garden and doing household repairs for relatives and friends. For many years, he delivered meals to shut-ins as a volunteer with Meals on Wheels. He was a longtime parishioner of Our Lady of Czestochowa Church, where he served as an usher and was a member of the Holy Name Society. After living most of his life on Meadowbrook Parkway, Mr. Tokasz moved into Elderwood Assisted Living in 2011.
He was married 66 years to the former Lucy Pacer, who died in 2009. In addition to his two sons, he is survived by six grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 9:30 a.m. Friday in Our Lady of Czestochowa Church, 2158 Clinton St., Cheektowaga, following prayers at 9 in Buszka Funeral Home, 2005 Clinton St., Buffalo.