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Thread: Remembering heroes

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    Remembering heroes

    Monday, October 11, 2004

    Remembering heroes

    Service honors 10 firefighters.

    Melanie Mangum
    T&G STAFF


    WORCESTER- Shafts of light filtered through spotty cloud cover yesterday morning, illuminating from behind a giant American flag held in place by Ladder 4 and Ladder 2 of the Worcester Fire Department, as 10 deceased city firefighters were remembered in an emotional ceremony.

    Fire Chief Gerard A. Dio stood at a podium in front of the Grove Street fire station and wiped back tears as he talked about Lt. Richard W. Halvorsen and Captain Ralph F. Bartley, two firefighters among 10 who passed away this past year.

    "Today's ceremony brings a tear to my eye, because two people I cared very much for passed away," Chief Dio said. Capt. Bartley, Chief Dio's father-in-law, died Jan. 3 at the age of 81. Lt. Halvorsen, whom Chief Dio called his "closest friend on the job," died three days later at the age of 50.

    "They taught me, with their humor, that life is short, and we have to grab it and hold onto it as long as we can," Chief Dio said. "We do the best we can while we're here, and love the people dear to us, and that's what everybody on this list did."

    More than a hundred family members and friends of firefighters gathered on the lawn in front of WFD headquarters for the memorial, as the Worcester Fire Brigade Pipes and Drums marched from Lancaster Street to the fire station.

    The roll of 10 names was called, followed by the playing of "Taps" by a lone bugler and "Amazing Grace" by the fire brigade. A wreath was placed in front of the granite memorial, and the station rang a bell symbolizing the last call.

    Frank Raffa, president of the city firefighters union, explained a past tradition of sounding the bell to signal the beginning of the day's shift and the completion of a call.

    "It was also the mournful toll of the bell that solemnized and marked a comrade's passing," Mr. Raffa said. Three rings sounded three times, marking the end of duty and a return to quarters.

    "Their last call is complete, they're going home," Mr. Raffa said.

    Local and state officials attended the ceremony, and several spoke of the devotion of firefighters and their families.

    "I am in awe of you," U.S. Rep. James P. McGovern, D-Worcester, told firefighters. "Thank you for what you do to protect the people of the community."

    Addressing family members of the 10 deceased firefighters, Mr. McGovern said, "We are proud of their service and we will never forget them."

    "It is said that tradition is not inherited, but obtained through great labor," Mayor Timothy P. Murray said. "There are so many of our firefighters that go above and beyond their duty."

    Chief Dio said firefighters, like anyone, have their weaknesses and strengths.

    "Their strength was the fact that they all worked together to protect their community," he said.

    He then thanked the families of the 10 firefighters for whom last call was sounded.

    "Thank you for standing by their sides and loving them all their years."

    Maryann Hannon, of Worcester, came to the ceremony with her siblings to honor their father, Firefighter Charles T. Hannon Sr., who died in 1954, two years after retiring. She and her family have come to the memorial ceremony for the last five years.

    "It's very touching," she said of the ceremony. "At least there's still a connection after all these years."

    Honored in yesterday's ceremony were: Firefighter John P. Riordan, Firefighter Austin L. Kennedy Jr., Capt. Bartley, Lt. Halvorsen, District Chief Walter "Jake" Brown, Deputy Chief John P. McNamara, Firefighter William A. Remuck, Firefighter Martin J. Kelly Jr., Firefighter John K. Coggins and Lt. John Patrick Carrigan.

    More Photo's Below
    Fire Lt. Thomas White, left, Lt. Stephan Johnson, and Firefighter Mike Coffee, not pictured, place a memorial wreath in front of a monument yesterday morning at Worcester Fire Department headquarters. (ED COLLIER)

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    Worcester Fire Chief Gerard A. Dio

    Worcester Fire Chief Gerard A. Dio wipes his eye as he talks about the loss of two friends this past year.
    ED COLLIER

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    Honor Guard

    The Worcester Fire Department Honor Guard / Rifle Squad stands at attention.
    ED COLLIER

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    Worcester firefighters march down Grove Street.

    Worcester firefighters march down Grove Street yesterday under a large American flag.
    Photo's by ED COLLIER

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