Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company
The Boston Globe
August 21, 2003, Thursday ,THIRD EDITION

Kevin M. Walsh, chief of the Melrose Fire Department, died unexpectedly of a cerebral hemorrhage at Brigham and Women's Hospital Aug 13. He was 56.
"He was a good chief and he didn't get to finish what he started," said Captain John O'Brien, a colleague of Chief Walsh for more than 20 years. "We were on the same shift. He was always ready to go to battle."

Chief Walsh was born and raised in Malden and graduated from Malden High School in 1964. He entered the US Air Force and served in the Vietnam War.
For his wife of 34 years, Suzanne Walsh, her relationship with him "was love at first sight." When they met, Mrs. Walsh was engaged to someone else, but immediately broke it off. When the two began dating, Chief Walsh was serving as an Air Force police officer and stationed in Truro.

"He would come up to see me every weekend," she said. "Then he would leave Sunday afternoon in his Mustang hatchback. I couldn't wait until the next weekend."

The couple lived in a second-floor apartment on Forest Street while Chief Walsh worked at a metal fabrication company in Medford.

"Every Friday night we ate a small cheese pizza and drank a six-pack of beer," Mrs. Walsh said. The couple bought a house a few doors down and have lived there ever since.

He joined the Melrose Fire Department on Sept. 27, 1972. He became lieutenant on Jan. 18, 1978 and then captain Feb. 2, 1981.

"He loved being captain of Engine 2," O'Brien said. As chief since Aug. 19, 2002, Chief Walsh was regarded as a quiet, unassuming, and confident man, O'Brien said.

Mrs. Walsh said her husband never brought his work home, though she encouraged him to try for the chief's position. "This is your golden opportunity," Mrs. Walsh told her husband. And in his typical quiet manner, he told her he was given the chief's position one night when Mrs. Walsh returned home from her part-time job at Melrose Drug Center. When he first joined the force, Mrs. Walsh spent many nights reading and waiting up for him to come home.

"As the years went on, it got better," she said. "He was too smart and knowledgeable to get killed in a fire. He knew when to get guys out."

Chief Walsh enjoyed painting houses as a second job for many years. He gave it up when he became chief.

Chief Walsh was a member of the Boston Gaelic Fire Brigade, Melrose Elks, Stoneham American Legion and the VFW Harold O'Young Post No. 2394 in Melrose. His younger son, Christopher, had recently joined the Melrose Fire Department.

"He was so proud of both his sons," Mrs. Walsh said. His older son, Kevin, owns an electrical company.

Mrs. Walsh doesn't have a photo of her husband in his chief's uniform. He planned to have a photo taken with his two sons standing behind him, but was waiting to lose a few more pounds before getting in front of the camera.

"He had a sweet tooth," said Mrs. Walsh, who brought him home Brigham's mocha chip ice cream. He had been spending his free time working out, she said.

While his death was a shock to his family and co-workers, O'Brien told the department to "pick the sword up and move on, just what Kevin would have said."

In addition to his wife and sons, Chief Walsh leaves his sister, Elaine Notorangeli of New Hampshire.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Melrose Firemen's Relief Association, 576 Main St. Melrose 02176.