Nicholas Thalasinos, originally from South Jersey, was a long-time employee of the San Bernardino Department of Health.
His wife told ABC News Thalasinos worked as an inspector in the environmental division alongside suspected shooter, Syed Farook.
Nicholas Thalasinos was apparently born in New York, but his first wife tells Action News he grew up around Toms River and Lakewood, New Jersey.
He got his degree at Stockton College in Galloway Township, New Jersey.
His family says he always focused on public safety, including the safety of the food and water we eat and drink.
"We met, he was still in college. After college, we worked together at an ambulance service, and things took off from there," ex-wife Annette Thalasinos said.
They met for the first time in 1983.
Action News spoke with her and the younger of their two sons, Jacob, on Thursday.
Jacob struggles to make sense of the shooting rampage that left his father and 13 others dead.
He recalled the moment he got the devastating news at work.
"As soon as my boss came and got me, I looked in and saw my aunt, I knew ... I knew it was him," Jacob said.
A night before, they were aware public health workers had been targeted in the California attack and hoped for the best.
"I came home from work yesterday, I saw what was on the news. I figured he would be fine," Jacob said.
"It wasn't until early this morning I heard that my oldest son, who lives in New Jersey, called and heard from Nick's current wife, Jennifer, who let him know he hadn't survived," Annette Thalasinos said.
An outpouring of condolences flooded the Facebook pages of both Nicholas and Jennifer, with many posting sentiments like "keeping you in prayers."
"He was a good person. I loved my father. I always will," Jacob said.
Before moving to the West Coast, Nicholas Thalasinos worked at Cape May County's Department of Health from 1988 until 2002. He also worked for several health agencies including Ocean and Burlington counties.
His coworkers also found out Thursday morning.
"They got a Facebook message from his wife, and that's how I was informed this morning," Cape May County Freeholder Director Gerald Thornton said. "Let me tell you, he was a good guy."
Thalasinos moved to California after meeting his wife, who works as a teacher. Jennifer Thalasinos posted pictures of a visit to the Reagan National Library with her husband on Facebook.
According to a GoFundMe page set up to cover funeral costs, Nicholas met Jennifer online. They had been together for 14 years.
Thalasinos was also an inspector in California.
Annette Thalasinos says he used his environmental science degree to help people.
"Ensuring that people were safe, he was a health inspector, he worked on the hazmat team in Cape May County; I understand he was a water inspector out in California," Annette Thalasinos said. "He just wanted to do his job to make sure his community was safe."
Annette and Jacob say their hearts go out to his widow in California.
Police said that suspected shooters Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik opened fire at a party for San Bernardino County Health Department employees, ultimately killing 14 and injuring 21.
Police said Thursday they found three pipe bombs tied together in the buildings after the shooting.
Thorton says they are looking to step up security at Cape May County's Department of Health.