By JOANNE L. PAPAIANNI and PETE WALTON
Bradley Beach lost one of its most dedicated and beloved citizens this week with the death Mon., May 21 of John McLoughlin.
Many in the audience at the Borough Council meeting May 22, who had not heard the news of his death, gasped when Mayor Gary Engelstad asked those assembled to stand for a moment of silence. The mayor described McLoughlin as “a giant in our community.”
“He was a giant literally and figuratively in our town,” he said. “ He leaves a hole that will be hard to fill.”
Councilman Harold Cotler said McLoughlin was one of the first people he met when he moved to the borough. The two men would later spend decades working together as first responders in Bradley Beach.
“A true hero has passed away,” Cotler said. “He never thought of himself, only how he could help others solve problems.”
Councilman Norman Goldfarb said he was honored to have known McLoughlin.
“He made such an impression on everyone, young and old,” Goldfarb said. “Despite his physical difficulties in his later years, he always suited up in uniform to show his dedication to the fire department.”
“He left a lasting mark on us,” Goldfarb added. “There was a man.”
“He loved his family and loved his town,” Cotler recalled. “Everyone he met became part of his family. I am honored that he called me a friend. The world has lost a shining light of human kindness and decency.”
McLoughlin owned a construction company and joked once that he had built or renovated at least half the houses in town.
Suffering from cancer for the past five years, McLoughlin succumbed to the disease unexpectedly.
“I had just spoken to him and now he’s gone,” said long time friend and First Aid Captain John Zech. “I was shocked.”
Zech spoke fondly of his long time friend saying, “We were two peas in a pod.”
The two had been friends for 40 years and shared a common history. Both were long time firefighters and first aid members and served as chief and captain.
Zech, who is a cancer survivor, said they shared fighting the disease as well.
“You couldn’t find a better person. He was dedicated to the fire department, his church and his family. All three of those things meant a lot to him,” he said.
Zech said he and McLoughlin spoke in the past week and were planning to get together this week to discuss their traditional Memorial Day speeches.
“It’s funny that it happened now – this is his and mine biggest weekend. We were both in the military. I gave the first speech and he gave the second. I always told him mine was better than yours,” he said.
Speaking of the upcoming Memorial Day ceremony Zech said the day will be dedicated to McLoughlin.
“I’m not going to do my usual speech. We are going to honor him,” Zech said.
McLoughlin was also the only Santa Claus the fire department has known.
His death was posted on the fire department’s Facebook page Tuesday morning with this message, “It is with very heavy hearts that the Bradley Beach Fire Department announces the passing of longtime member and past chief of the department, John McLoughlin. He will be greatly missed. ‘All men are created equal then a few become firemen,’ Thank you for your service Chief.”
“Bradley Beach’s heart is broken,” the mayor said.
Englestad also said McLoughlin will be remembered at this weekend’s Memorial Day activities.
“We want to wrap our arms around Eileen (McLoughlin’s wife) and give her and the family our love and support,” he added.
Police Chief Leonard Guida spoke of McLoughlin’s dedication to the town and his family.
“I was very sorry, so sad to hear about his passing. He was a true gentleman, devoted to the town and a devoted family man. He’ll be sorely missed here in Bradley Beach,” he said.
Guida noted McLoughlin was very active in the town as a firefighter and past Planning Board member and frequent attendee at town meetings.
“He was always the voice of reason at those meetings,” he said.
A viewing will be held at Ely Funeral Home in Neptune from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. Fri., May 25. A funeral Mass will take place at Ascension Church in Bradley Beach at 10 a.m. May 26.