WATERVLIET, N.Y. (NEWS10) – The Watervliet Fire Department paid tribute to an extraordinary member of its team on Wednesday.
Thomas “Chief Mack” Mackey was born with Down Syndrome, but he never let his disability get in the way of his dedication to the station.
“Tom Mackey – Chief Mack – and he was a great guy, and he would kid with anybody,” Mackey’s brother-in-law Bob Mirch said. “It didn’t matter if you were the local sanitation manager or the president of the United States, if you said ‘hello’ to Chief Mack, he’d take a jab at ya.”
Mackey got his start at the Watervliet Fire Department over 20 years ago when he showed up unannounced looking to help. He quickly earned the title ‘Chief Mack’ while serving under five different fire chiefs.
“He’d come into the fire house every day and, ‘Chief, how ya doin? How’s your wife?’” retired Watervliet Fire Chief Don Clickner recalled. “I mean, every day was the same thing, and it was special, but it’s a sad time for us. You know, you lose a big part of the history of this department and Tommy cared. He was, like I said, he was one of us. He was one of the brothers.”
In 2007, Mayor Mike Manning and then-Fire Chief Clickner gave Mackey a part-time custodial job at the fire department.
“And boy that made him feel 10 feet tall,” Mirch said. “It was one of the best things that ever happened to him in his life.”
Mackey passed away peacefully on Sunday surrounded by family in his Troy home.
“He was just – he was my brother-in-law, and he was one of my best buddies,” Mirch said.
“It’s really important to understand how much this department will miss him,” Clickner said. “You know, it’s like I said – the brother word gets thrown around a lot in the fire service and he was a brother, and he’ll be sorely missed…there’s no one that could come in that door and be another Tommy.”