When James C. Vinson, Wantagh Fire Department Ex-Captain, Badge #1644 unexpectedly passed away from cardiac arrest on July 5, the Seaford native was in the car with mom Ellen, sister Jackie and her sons Christopher, Charles and Colin on the way to one of the family’s frequent day-trips to Hershey Park. Under the sorrowful circumstances, the gregarious son/brother/uncle/friend was tapping away on his laptop engaging in fire department business, putting him in the midst of a number of his passions—family, fire department, traveling and technology.
In hindsight, it was something sibling Jackie, two years her 40-year-old’s brother junior, was quick to point out.
“He definitely lived his life doing what he loved, which was the firehouse,” she said. “I would say that was his second family. When James wasn’t with them, he was an uncle. I have three kids and he was always helping me. Jimmy loved to travel and it’s something he loved ever since he was a kid. He was always trying to get everyone to go everywhere. We were in the car headed to Hershey Park on the way to our next adventure.”
The passion for firefighting dates back to Vinson’s childhood and something Ellen Vinson recalled her son indulging in via some unusual ways.
“He had a scanner that he got from his grandmother, who lived in Bellmore,” Ellen recalled. “He would always get her to drive him to calls when he was a little boy. I think my mother got it from her brother, who was a Philadelphia fireman, who was interested in calls on the scanner. That’s how I think [Jimmy] got this interest in fire trucks and always wanting to be a fireman.”
A product of a Catholic school education, Vinson attended Maria Regina School in Seaford from kindergarten through eighth grade before heading off to St. Dominic’s High School in Oyster Bay. Vinson’s path to firefighting became actionable when he joined the North Massapequa Fire Deparment when he was 16, He then switched over to the Wantagh Fire Department, getting assigned to Engine 7 on Sept. 25. Vinson was quickly accepted and found to be an eager firefighter. In April 2004, he transferred to Ladder 2 and began the transition from an Engine Company to a Ladder Company. On Jan. 1, 2012 he was sworn in as lieutenant and served for two years before being elected captain of Ladder 2 for three years in 2017. During his time with the department, Vinson served on many committees and was an EMT and safety officer. He received several awards including a Lifesaving Award and Chiefs Awards. Several years ago, Vinson was asked to be a department secretary and tasked with the important job of coordinating and registering members for training opportunities.
For Vinson, helping people, the camaraderie the fire department offered and a chance to make long-lasting friendships was a major reason he also insisted on being driven past the local firehouse when he was a kid and deciding to eventually become a first responder. And if he got to work with technology along the way, all the better.
“He was a gadget guy and go-to-guy,” Ellen recalled of her son. “If you needed to know anything about the way the technology worked, he was right on top of that. He had an office job, where he did a lot of computer stuff. I think that’s what he was doing with the fire department—he was helping them out with the computer system because he had a job as a secretary at the end.”
Vinson’s gregarious nature was one that found many of his friends gathering on the Tuesday night of his passing at Station 2 and sharing many stories about him. He was repeatedly described as “great friend,” “selfless individual,” “respectful” and “genuine.” He was a dedicated and valued member as well as a mentor to the younger members as they joined and assimilated into the department. It’s a description that fully fits in with how Vinson’s sister Jackie remembers him.
“He was nice, always tried to include everybody and wanted to make sure nobody felt left out,” she said.
A wake and department services were held at the Charles J. O’Shea Funeral Home in Wantagh on Thursday, July 7, and a funeral Mass was held at Maria Regina RC Church in Seaford on Friday, July 8. Interment was at St. Charles Cemetery in Farmingdale. Vinson is survived by his mother, Ellen; sister, Jackie and her sons, Christopher, Charles and Colin.
A funeral “arch” was set up the morning of the Funeral in front of Station #2 by the Seaford and Levittown Fire Departments in honor of Vinson.