It was announced at the Board of Selectmen’s Jan. 4 meeting that Wilton police Sgt. Thomas Tunney, known to many as TJ, died of cancer on Jan. 3.

“Sgt. Thomas ‘TJ’ Tunney, a 31-year member of the Wilton Police Department, passed away yesterday,” First Selectman Lynne Vanderslice began.

“Sgt. Tunney was well respected and appreciated by his fellow officers and members of the community.

“He was awarded Wilton’s Police Officer of the Year in 2013; he also received the New England Chief’s Medal of Valor, and the American Red Cross Community Hero Award.

“Our prayers and our condolences go out to Sgt. Tunney’s family, and friends, and to all the members of the Wilton Police Department.

“And I ask that we all take a little moment of silence to either say a prayer or to reflect on Sgt. Tunney’s life.”

With that, Town Hall Meeting Room B fell to quietude as those attending the selectmen's meeting bowed their heads in sober recognition.

Before Tunney’s passing, the Wilton Police Benevolent Association (PBA) had set up a special fund to assist him with the financial obligations caused by his illness, and scheduled a fundraiser for that purpose at the Ponus Yacht Club in Stamford for Jan. 7.

The fundraiser will go on as planned, according to David Hartman, president of the Wilton PBA.

"It will be a celebration of his life," Hartman told The Bulletin. "All money collected will go to assist his family with funeral costs. Any remaining funds will be donated to Connecticut Hospice at his family's request."

Services will take place Saturday, Jan. 9, at 11:30, at Our Lady Star of the Sea Church on Shippan Avenue in Stamford.  A reception will follow in the church hall. The service is open to the public."

"Our hearts are broken as we have lost a brother officer, friend, mentor and someone that cared so much for the people he served every day," Hartman said.  "He touched the lives of so many with his compassion for others and his dedication to the law enforcement profession."

Tunney was named officer of the year and received the medal of valor and hero award for his efforts following a car accident on Hurlbutt Street in October 2012. He was the first to arrive, finding a Norwalk man’s car in flames after it had crashed into the woods.

“When I got down to him, he was still in the car. The car was completely engulfed,” Tunney told The Bulletin the next day, adding “the heat pushed me back.

“I tried to grab him but it flamed back over again.” At that point, something hit him in the face, although he said he is not sure what. While he was trying to help the driver, fellow officers were helping to keep some of the flames at bay with fire extinguishers.

“I tried again, but he was still hung up,” he said, referring to the driver. “The third time I pulled him forward and out of the car.”

The Wilton Fire Department awarded Tunney a special commendation for his heroic efforts that day.

He was also one of three officers to help deliver a baby at a Splash Car Wash in 2008. They subsequently received the American Red Cross Law Enforcement Award for saving the baby from strangulation.

For a story on Tunney's battle with cancer and the Wilton PBA fundraising efforts, visit this address.