Two weeks after Gloucester honored America’s war dead on Memorial Day, the city’s firefighters will gather for their own memorial, continuing a 131-year tradition.
The annual Firefighters Relief Association Memorial Service, which dates to 1888, is slated for Sunday morning, June 9, said organizer Mike Chipperini, the president of the association and a longtime firefighter/EMT with the Gloucester Fire Department.
The event, held the second Sunday of June each year, will kick off with an 8:45 a.m. procession from the Department of Public Works yard on Proctor Street, then proceed with the full department marching to the Cherry Hill Cemetery adjacent to Addison Gilbert Hospital for the annual ceremony, beginning at 9 a.m.
State Rep. Ann-Margaret Ferrante — who represents voters from Gloucester, Rockport and Essex — will serve as guest speaker, Chipperini said.
The memorial is designed to pay tribute to those eight Gloucester firefighters who lost their lives in the line of duty — the most recent being Russell Shea, who died in 1982 after fighting a fire at the Matheson Gas Company.
Chipperini said the ceremony also honors those firefighters who have passed away in the last year, and those who have more recently succumbed to “occupational cancers” suffered while on the job.
The most recent of those deaths came when the late Michael Smith, who contracted non-Hodgkins lymphoma, died in 2012 due to metastatic lung cancer he contracted from fighting the 1998 Fisherman’s Wharf fire on the city’s waterfront. The relief association is still fighting for his widow, MaryBeth Smith, to receive full benefits due him as a firefighter lost in the line of duty.
In the event of rain, the service Sunday will be held at Gloucester Fire Headquarters at 8 School St.
Other Cape Ann ceremonies
Gloucester is not the only Cape Ann community hosting a memorial service Sunday morning.
The Rockport Fire Department will step off from Central Station at 9 a.m. and proceed down Broadway, heading over to Beech Grove Cemetery. A service will be held there to honor the dead. The department will then return to Central Station for refreshments. The public is welcome.
The Essex Fire Department will also hold its annual procession and service Sunday, also beginning at 8:45 from the town’s fire station. The Essex event will include a march to the Spring Street Cemetery for a brief ceremony, then return to the fire station, Chief Daniel Doucette said.
The town of Manchester’s Fire Department held its memorial service Tuesday evening, with a procession to the town firefighters’ memorial off Rosedale Cemetery. Prayers there were led by Chaplain David Forsythe, Lt. Jim Doucette said.
Ray Lamont can be reached at 978-675-2705, or via email at email@example.com.
IF YOU GO
What: Annual Firefighters Memorial Service to honor deceased firefighters who have served the Gloucester community. Guest speaker is state Rep. Ann-Margaret Ferrante.
When: Sunday, June 9, at 9 a.m.
Where: Following an 8:45 a.m. gathering at the Department of Public Works, a procession will lead to the Firefighters Memorial Site at Cherry Hill Cemetery (adjacent to Addison Gilbert Hospital) to place wreaths on the graves of firefighters.