An impact on our town

One of the nice things about working downtown is that there are times when it’s just as fast to walk to a meeting or to lunch as it is to drive there.

On many of those trips, walking up North Street is the easiest route to get back to the newspaper offices.

Something that makes those walks a little more enjoyable is the people you might run into along the way. In fact, you can almost count on having the opportunity to say hello to the members of the Steubenville Fire Department who are assigned to the main fire station.

And, more often than not, one of those firefighters who would be taking a break on the bench outside of the building would be Gray Nagy. He always had the time to say hello and to share some small talk, whether it was about the weather, a call they had been out on or anything else that might be happening around the town. No matter the topic, he always had a positive point of view.

Everyone who knew Gray had mixed emotions when they learned last month that he was going to retire. While his leaving was a loss for the fire department, for sure — his knowledge and experience were of great value to younger firefighters as they learned their jobs — the decision also opened other opportunities for him.

“I plan to take it easy going forward, catch up on some work at home and maybe find a job in the fire service,” Nagy told staff writer Dave Gossett for a story that appeared in our June 7 edition.

All of that — the small talk shared along North Street or anywhere else where you’d run across Nagy and being able to step away from a career that spanned almost 32 years and his thoughts about what the future might bring — came to mind on July 1 when I learned that Gray had died, apparently after doing some work around the house.

His unexpected death at the age of 56 affects his family the deepest, but it also hit hard at the fire department and throughout the community.

He always was willing to extend a helping hand to anyone in need, whether on the job or not.

David “Doc” Sullivan, a fellow firefighter, helped put Nagy’s work into perspective. He talked about Nagy as a man who prepared and shared meals for those who area hungry, counseled those who are desperate to give them hope and guidance, provided rides for those with no means of transportation and rescued and adopted stray animals that had been abandoned.

Those words were included in the information he submitted while nominating Nagy to be one of the 2016 Community Starts selected by the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times.

Like all true heroes, Nagy was reluctant to be recognized at last year’s dinner, which was held Sept. 26 at Hellenic Hall inside Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, telling Gossett he could think of a couple of dozen people in the community who were more deserving of the honor.

Those involved in the selection process could not have disagreed more and were happy to be able to name him among the 10 honorees.

“Gray would argue that it is just a part of his job,” Sullivan told Gossett. “But his actions speak louder than words for those less fortunate and considered peripherals to society.

“He serves as an inspiration to others to become better citizens and is a model public servant who serves the city with pride.”

The impact he made on the community was seen Thursday, from the long line of area residents who stopped by Mosti Funeral Home on Sunset Boulevard to pay their respects, to those who gathered along the city’s streets as the city’s fire department — joined by trucks representing departments from around the region — carried his casket to Steubenville High School, where hundreds more attended his funeral service.

They, along with memories of pleasant afternoon conversations, are scenes and thoughts that will come to mind now every time I pass by that bench that sits on North Street, about halfway between Fourth and Fifth streets.

(Gallabrese, a resident of Steubenville, is executive editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times.)