The Westhampton Beach Fire Department lost two long-time members on September 18, 2020, when retired Firefighter Richard Speed and ex-Chief Richard ‘Dick’ Van Tassel answered their final calls.
Firefighter Speed served in the department for 44 years. He was a 1963 graduate of Westhampton Beach High School where he played football, basketball and baseball. He graduated from the State University of New York Agricultural and Technical College at Morrisville and Miami University of Ohio. He joined the Army and served in Vietnam after which he worked at his family’s business, Speed’s Pharmacy on Main Street in Westhampton Beach. He coached Pop Warner football and was an avid supporter of all Westhampton Beach sports. He was devoted to his golden retrievers and a pet parrot and spent as much time as possible on the beach.
Born in 1942, Chief Van Tassel, was a lifelong Long Island resident. He was a 1959 graduate of Sayville High School and a 1963 graduate of Wesley College. One of his earliest jobs was being a salesman for the Griswold Candy Company, a position that led him to be known as the ‘Candy Man’ of Westhampton. For many years he ran a landscaping and tree service. He was always available to plow snowy driveways for friends and neighbors, and the wood he supplied kept many a Westhampton home warm throughout the winter. He was also the inspiration for his son Dean’s farmstand, which has been a Library Avenue fixture for more than 40 years.
Dick’s greatest loves were his family and the Westhampton Beach Fire Department where he was a 50-plus year member, serving as Chief Engineer from 1983 through 1986. He was also a leading force behind a restoration of the department’s 1928 Brockway in which he proudly rode in the 2019 St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Dick was known for his infectious smile and the kindness he showed to all department members, from probies to chiefs.
These two devoted members will be sorely missed.
– Fire News photos courtesy of the Westhampton Beach FD