Firefighter Michael Kennedy remembered at wake
In the morning, they attended a funeral Mass in Watertown for Fire Lieutenant Edward J. Walsh Jr., who was killed in a devastating fire last week in the Back Bay.
Hours later on Wednesday, many of those same mourners lined Centre Street in West Roxbury to attend the wake of the Boston firefighter who died along with Walsh in the blaze, Michael R. Kennedy. He was an Iraq war veteran, motorcycling enthusiast, and skilled cook who was remembered as a young man always smiling and dedicated to serving others.
Kennedy, 33, and Walsh, 43, died battling the ferocious, wind-whipped blaze at 298 Beacon St. last week.
The somber observances continued in West Roxbury, where legions of Boston firefighters and their colleagues from around the country lined up in dress uniforms outside the P.E. Murray Funeral Home to pay their respects to Kennedy.
As firefighters, other emergency workers, and civilians waited in line to enter, veterans groups across the street held American flags, as well as the flag bearing the insignia of the US Marine Corps, with whom Kennedy served in Iraq.
American flags throughout the neighborhood flew at half-staff, and a large Boston Fire Department logo was displayed in front of one residence.
Boston District Fire Chief Dennis Keeley spoke fondly of Kennedy outside the funeral home.
“Firefighter Kennedy, nice guy,” Keeley said. “Always had a smile on his face. Always had a helping hand.”
Keeley said Kennedy was “always working hard, and he was quite a guy. He had a lot of activities outside of just being a firefighter. Not just his Marine Corps past, but his motorcycle, his cooking. He was quite the Renaissance man.”
Kennedy’s family had recounted to the Globe how he jumped out of planes while skydiving and rode in a veterans motorcycle club. But he also loved cooking, having studied at Johnson & Wales culinary school in Rhode Island, and flowers.
He was even considering proposing to his girlfriend on Lilac Sunday on May 11.
“Very interesting guy,” Keeley said Wednesday. “I always enjoyed talking to him.”
Lieutenant Dan McCarthy of the Buffalo Fire Department was among the many firefighters who traveled from out of state to attend Kennedy’s wake.
“It means a lot,” McCarthy said. “It’s a show of support to the families of our fallen brothers. They reciprocate [the gesture]. It’s a thing of unity, brotherhood kind of thing. We know what they’re going through.”
The larger family of first responders, including police officers and paramedics, also came out in force.
Superintendent in Chief William Gross of the Boston police said the outpouring of support for Kennedy and Walsh is a testament to the bond among emergency workers.
“We often joke with each other,” Gross said. “But when one of our brothers or sisters goes down, it really shows” the solidarity.
“This is not only a good reflection of where our nation is, in terms of honoring first responders who run toward danger instead of away from it,” Gross added. “But it’s also a reflection of [first responders’] brotherhood.”
Maura Stack, 31, of West Roxbury, was one of the many people who stood across the street without going through the receiving line, simply to “pay my respects,” she said.
“We’re a firefighting family,” said Stack, whose late grandfather was a Boston firefighter. “It’s just close to home for us.”
A funeral Mass for Kennedy will be said Thursday at 11 a.m. at Holy Name Church in West Roxbury.
On Wednesday, a woman leaving his wake who described herself as a family member responded simply when asked if she wanted to share anything about Kennedy.
“Just rest in peace,” she said.