Richard Ligon, who broke racial barriers when he joined the Riverhead Fire Department in 1977, died suddenly at his Riverhead home this morning.
Ligon rose to the rank of captain in the Redbird Hook and Ladder Company and was later elected a commissioner of the Riverhead Fire District. He was 77 years old.
Ligon was a dedicated firefighter who was well-known throughout New York State for his service in many different firefighting organizations.
In Riverhead, he served as fire district commissioner from 2000 to 2004. He was Riverhead Firefighter of the Year in 1993. He was Redbird of the year in 1988, 1993 and 2008 and served as captain of the Ironman Racing Team.
Ligon remained an active firefighter and one of the department’s top responders. Yesterday alone, he responded to three calls.
“Rich was a great guy a mentor to me when I got in,” said Gio Woodson, who 12 years after Ligon joined, became the second African-American firefighter in the Riverhead Fire Department.
“Wherever I went as a firemen — upstate, out of state, in the city — everyone asked me did I know him,” Woodson said. Everyone who met the charismatic Ligon loved him. “He will be greatly missed,” he said. “Rest well, my brother.”
Ligon was president of the North Fork Volunteer Fireman’s Association from 2012 to 2014 and a past president of Suffolk County Drill Officials. He was also area representative to the New York State Parade and Drill Team Captain’s Association.
“Riverhead has lost another good man,” Riverhead Fire Chief Kevin Brooks said this morning.
Ligon, a U.S. Navy veteran, worked as a letter carrier with the U.S. Postal Service. He is survived by a daughter and a grandson.
Visitation will take place on Friday, May 12 and Saturday, May 13 from 2 to 4 and 6 to 9 p.m. at Riverhead Fire Department Headquarters, 540 Roanoke Avenue, Riverhead. A funeral service will take place on Monday, May 15 at 11 a.m. at First Baptist Church of Riverhead, 1018 Northville Turnpike, Riverhead, with a viewing preceding the service, beginning at 10 a.m. Interment will follow the service at Calverton National Cemetery.