East Meadow, NY - New York Police Department (NYPD) Sergeant Thomas J. Fennessy died in the line of duty on July 26, when he succumbed to cancer that developed following his service at the World Trade Center terrorist attacks on Sep. 11, 2001.
Retired Sgt. Fennessy, 64, joined the NYPD in 1982, following in the footsteps of his father, James Joseph Fennessy, and several other family members who were police officers in the city, Newsday reported.
His family said law enforcement was the only career he ever wanted.
“It was his pride and joy. It was his calling,” Sgt. Fennessy’s daughter, 29-year-old Kristen Fennessy, told Newsday. “He came from a big line of blue.”
Sgt. Fennessy, who worked in NYPD’s Auto Larceny Unit, volunteered to help in the aftermath of 9/11, and was assigned to Ground Zero for numerous weeks after the terrorist attacks.
Family members said the recovery effort took a mental toll on the usually gregarious man, Newsday reported.
“He never ever talked about it,” his wife of 35 years, Elaine Fennessy, said. “He couldn’t talk about it.”
Sgt. Fennessy retired from the NYPD in 2002. He went on to a second career as an insurance fraud investigator, according to Newsday.
His old brother, Joseph Fennessy, said that the former police sergeant was well aware of his fellow Ground Zero first responders getting sick and said that he acknowledged every year that went by as he stayed healthy, Newsday reported.
“He always felt he was beating it,” Joseph Fennessy said.
But then in October of 2017, Sgt. Fennessy suffered an episode that was initially misdiagnosed as a stroke, Newsday reported.
By the holidays, doctors had discovered a brain tumor and diagnosed the former police sergeant with the aggressive brain cancer glioblastoma.
“Tom never complained,” Elaine Fennessy told Newsday. “He may have been frustrated by his illness, but he always worked hard to do what he had to do. Doctors’ appointments, surgeries, treatments — nothing would stand in his way. He endured this journey with such strength and dignity. And had an incredible support system that battled right there with him through every step. I truly believe it extended his time here with us."
Sgt. Fennessy is survived by his wife, daughter, son, daughter-in-law, and two grandchildren.
His family remembered him as the unofficial neighborhood handyman who loved sailing his boat, the Wind Charmer, and making other people laugh, Newsday reported.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of New York Police Department Sergeant Thomas J. Fennessy, both blood and blue. Thank you for your service.
Rest easy, hero. We’ll hold the line from here.