Christopher Calma, who died in a boating accident earlier this month, loved adventure, the outdoors and animals, but he was especially devoted to his 13-year-old son Luke, his family said.
“His son was his whole life,” said Calma’s sister, Charlene Thomas of West Islip.
Calma, 50, of Bethpage, fell overboard while fishing with his son on July 3 near Northport Bay in Huntington. Calma could swim, family members said, but he was not wearing a life jacket when he fell in the water. Suffolk County police recovered his body on July 9, officials said.
Family members said Calma of Bethpage was a warm and big-hearted man who brought out the best in those around him.
“He treated everyone he met with dignity and respect,” brother Andrew Calma said. “He was ‘the guy’ who was always there to save the day when you need him most.”
Calma loved animals — he had a dog named Chewy, after the “Star Wars” character, and kept several reptiles as pets, including snakes, turtles and a bearded dragon — according to his family.
“He knew everything about animals, furry and non-furry,” his ex-wife Tida Calma said
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Calma also loved to build things, his family said. “There is nothing he could not fix — cars, motorcycles,” Tida Calma said.
Calma was an avid boxer, surfer and dirt bike rider. “He was always down for anything,” Thomas said, recalling how her brother once wrestled with an alligator while in Florida. It was important to Calma, she said, to share his passions with his son.
“He always wanted to have fun with Luke,” Tida Calma agreed. “He was totally devoted to Luke.”
Calma grew up in Massapequa and earned a degree in biochemistry from Stony Brook University. He worked for 23 years as a sales specialist for Medtronic, a medical technology company, specializing in complex spine surgeries. Nurses, surgeons and his peers knew him as “a selfless, consummate professional,” Andrew Calma said.
“His honest, likeable and easygoing personality gained him the respect of both his peers and patients alike,” Calma’s brother said.
In addition to his son, ex-wife, sister and brother, Calma is also survived by 10 other siblings.
A wake for Calma will be held Tuesday from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. at William E. Law Funeral Home, 1 Jerusalem Ave., Massapequa.
A funeral Mass will be celebrated Wednesday at 9:45 a.m. at St. Raphael Church, 600 Newbridge Rd., in East Meadow.
The Calma family asks that anyone who wishes to make a donation to Christian Aid Ministries Search and Rescue.
Michael O’Keeffe covers Suffolk County police and other Long Island law-enforcement agencies. He is an award-winning journalist and the co-author of two books, “The Card” and “American Icon.”