, Gloucester, MA

July 6, 2013

One hot wedding in Rockport

Rockport firefighters tie the knot at bonfire

By Gail McCarthy
Staff Writer

---- — Rockport volunteer firefighters Jack Hennessey and Susan Lanza are used to the heat.

So tying their nuptial knot on a day of scorching heat and humidity on the Fourth of July didn’t faze the couple a bit.

When the parade ended and before the lighting of the traditional gargantuan bonfire at Back Beach, the couple was married just after 8 p.m. Thursday by justice of the peace and retired town clerk Fred Frithsen, with a color guard nearby and the townspeople and visitors as their witnesses.

The music already was taken care of: the Rockport Legion Band and other musicians were at the bandstand for their annual Fourth of July concert. But before they began, they played the “Wedding March” as Lanza was walked from the bandstand and across the street by Capt. Phil Tanson, who gave her away.

They are part of the Speedwell Engine Company 2 based in Pigeon Cove.

Tanson said this is a first on two fronts — the first marriage he’s seen at a bonfire, and the first married couple on the Rockport Fire Department.

The bride was not dressed in white, but in her navy blue firefighters’ dress uniform, as was her groom. However, she clutched a bouquet of red, white and blue flowers.

“I think that this idea really started off as joke when it was mentioned ‘why don’t we do it on the Fourth of July’ and then we thought why not and in front of the bonfire,” said Hennessey. “And that’s what we did.”

The couple, both of whom had been married before, have seven grandchildren between them.

The bride’s daughter, Wendy Jeter, served as her mom’s maid of honor, wearing a red and white striped skirt, while the groom’s best man was fellow firefighter Steve Abell. Some of their family members traveled to Rockport to be part of the event.

Invitations were sent out to family and friends via Facebook but they knew many more would be in attendance as the annual bonfire draws a crowd of more than 1,000 residents and visitors each year.

“Jack and I were best friends for many years and our vows related to that,” said Lanza.

The couple met when Lanza worked at Den Mar Nursing Home. Lanza, a registered nurse for 22 years, is originally from East Boston and Hennessey is from New Jersey. Although she no longer works at Den Mar, there was a Den Mar van and a group that marched in the parade with a banner that featured a photograph of the couple and the words “Congratulations.”

The people in the crowd realized what was happening when the justice of the peace pulled out his book and the bride was walking toward the center of the action, and smiles broke out on their faces. The couple received a cascade of well wishes, and the crowd cheered loudly after the exchanging of the rings and the first kiss as a married couple.

There was no immediate honeymoon, but this winter they plan to go to Key West, where they can reminisce about their highly unusual yet fitting nuptials.

Lucky for them, there was no fire call Thursday night; they were riding aboard Engine 2, which was at the head of the parade.

“We would be the responders,” said Hennessey, “so if there were any calls during the parade, we would miss the wedding.”

Gail McCarthy can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3445.