Boston Fire Lieutenant John M. McLaughlin inhaled too much smoke and dust while fighting a fire in South Boston on Jan. 16, 1928. He never recovered and died 16 days later.
On Monday a ceremony will be held to acknowledge the sacrifice McLaughlin made for the city, and his photo will be added to the Memorial Hall at the Boston Fire Department’s headquarters.
Boston Fire Commissioner John Dempsey said that McLaughlin was the 84th member of the Boston Fire Department to die in the line of duty and that the recognition is long overdue.
“We have a Memorial Hall, which honors all our members who died in the line of duty. Somehow his photo was never put up there,” said Dempsey. “His family has been trying to resolve this for some time now.”
Dempsey said that McLaughlin’s photo will be going up “where it belongs.”
“This has been 93 years in the making,” said Dempsey. “We just wanted to acknowledge the extreme sacrifice that he made. He deserves that.”
McLaughlin lived with his wife and children at 5 Quincefield St. in Dorchester. He joined the Boston Fire Department in 1913 and was promoted to lieutenant in 1927. At the time of his death, he was assigned to Ladder 19 in South Boston.
His granddaughter, Paula McLaughlin Grant, said her grandfather suffered significant smoke inhalation while fighting a fire at an old fish factory in South Boston. In addition to the smoke, he also inhaled plaster dust, she said.
“He was never able to return to work again,” she said.
McLaughlin died on Feb. 1, 1928. The next day, Boston Fire Commissioner E. C. Hultman issued an order acknowledging McLaughlin’s death and announcing the plans for his funeral: “The Chief of Department will make the usual detail to act as funeral escort. Ladder Company 19 will be excused from duty in order to attend the funeral. Members of the department who are off duty have been invited by the family of Lieut. McLaughlin to join with the department detail, . . . white gloves and uniform overcoats will be worn by the detail.”
Although McLaughlin’s firefighting career was cut short, many of his descendants have followed in his footsteps. They include his late son, who retired as a district chief for the Boston Fire Department; three great-grandsons who are currently Boston firefighters; another great-grandson who works for the Needham Fire Department; and a great-grandson-in-law who’s a lieutenant for the Canton Fire Department.
His great-grandson Richard McLaughlin, has been a member of the Boston Fire Department for nine years and is a firefighter assigned to Engine 37 on Huntington Avenue. He said he’s looking forward to Monday’s ceremony and seeing his great-grandfather’s face in Memorial Hall.
“We found the picture at my grandparents’ house,” he said. “It’s kind of been a long time coming. It means a lot.”
Emily Sweeney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @emilysweeney and on Instagram @emilysweeney22.