Leaning against her car in a shady spot overlooking the Firemen’s Memorial monument at Forest Hills Cemetery Sunday morning, Kathy Minehan said she thinks about more than the loss of her husband when she attends the annual service that honors fallen members of the Boston Fire Department.
She is there to pay respects to them all, including those still serving.
“It’s more the honoring of not just the men that are buried here, or the men that have died, but the entire department,” Minehan said, as she watched her two grandsons pointing at flowers that had just been placed on firefighters’ graves. “They deserve to have some sort of ceremony for them. It’s really nice.”
About 200 retired and active Boston firefighters and their families paid tribute to their fallen comrades Sunday morning at the 119th Memorial Service at the Firefighter’s Lot of the cemetery, where 135 firefighters are buried. In their navy-blue dress uniforms, they stood side by side in salute, later helping to place the flowers on the graves.
Minehan’s husband, Lieutenant Stephen F. Minehan, died in 1994, just shy of his 20th year with the department, after he was trapped inside a burning building on the Charlestown pier. He had rushed in to rescue two firefighters, who survived.
Minehan’s son, Joseph, who was promoted to lieutenant in the Boston Fire Department last month, was also at the service.
Minehan said her husband had made it a point to attend the service every year with the whole family, just as he had gone with his father.
The family is in its fourth generation of Boston firefighters.
“This was a big thing for my husband when my kids were growing up,” Minehan said, as her 3-year-old grandson, Stephen, came running toward her.
When Minehan asked the boy if he wanted to be a firefighter like his father, Joseph, he replied with a resounding “Yeah!”
In his invocation, Grand Rabbi Yitzhak Aharon Korff told those gathered that faith and faithfulness is what brings everyone together to remember every year.
“Faithful in remembering and honoring those who have gone before us, that in this way they live forever,” Aharon Korff said. “Being present when called, as the firefighters we remember and honor today served when their call came in, is a religious act of faithfulness, which brings us closer to them.”
Richard Paris, president of Boston Firefighters Local 718, said the event is a time to set aside political differences, “to honor the men and women who have given the supreme sacrifice.”
This was Paris’s 40th year attending the event, which he first went to when he was 13. Making the memorial more special, he said, was the presence this year of his 13-year-old son, Michael, who also wants to be a firefighter.
The day’s orator was Robert Halton, a retired fire chief from Coppell, Texas, who spoke of the pride that firefighters’ families can take in the bravery of their service.
Halton, the editor-in-chief of Fire Engineering Magazine, said families have historically gathered at the Firefighter’s Lot grieving, but, “proud that their child, their husband, sibling, or parent raised in this land of privilege could have easily avoided such dangerous duty, such dangerous service, but nonetheless chose and volunteered for the actions that would eventually claim their lives.”