Fallen firefighter eulogized as ‘a Worcester martyr’
WORCESTER — Worcester firefighter Christopher J. Roy put his 9-year-old daughter, Ava, at the center of his world, moving “heaven and earth” to provide for her.
On Saturday, fellow Worcester firefighter David Scavone honored the enduring father-daughter bond by addressing the little girl during the final eulogy at Roy’s funeral Mass.
“To Ava, you were your father’s world,” said Scavone, one of three Worcester firefighters to eulogize Roy, 36, at St. John’s Catholic Church. “He moved heaven and earth to give you the best life possible — that you deserve. He is so proud of you and will continue to be. He will always be in your life and in your heart watching over you from heaven.”
A short time later, Boston firefighter Edward Kelly, the general secretary and treasurer for the International Association of Fire Fighters, presented Ava with a medal honoring Roy. She carried the box holding the medal as she exited the church with her grandparents, Ronald and Michele Roy.
Dressed in a white coat and matching headband, Ava Roy stood out among the throng of mourners who gathered in dark clothing or formal uniforms.
Roy, who joined the Worcester Fire Department 2½ years ago, died Dec. 9 while battling a five-alarm blaze at an apartment building on Lowell Street.
The single father and Worcester native is the eighth city firefighter to die in the line of duty since 1999.
His funeral was held on the seventh anniversary of services for Jon Davies Sr., 43, a Worcester firefighter who was killed in 2011 when a three-family home caught fire and partially collapsed.
Six firefighters died on Dec. 3, 1999, while fighting a massive fire at the abandoned Cold Storage and Warehouse Co. building on Franklin Street.
The Rev. Walter Riley, the Worcester Fire Department chaplain who said Roy’s funeral Mass, sought to reconcile the repeated tragedies that have afflicted city firefighters with Roman Catholic teachings about the promise of eternal salvation.
Riley drew upon the Gospel reading about Lazarus, who was raised from the dead by Jesus Christ, and implored mourners to have faith that Roy is now safe.
“Christopher Roy is at peace,” he said to the silent congregation. “It is not a stretch by any means to profess what this man did for us imitated the sacrifice of Christ on the cross on Lowell Street, Worcester . . . Christopher Roy is a Worcester martyr.”
On Dec. 9, Roy was among firefighters who rushed inside a three-story, six-unit apartment building on Lowell Street after a basement fire was reported at about 3:58 a.m.
The blaze quickly swept upward, forcing the firefighters to the second floor, where five of them escaped down ladders. Roy didn’t get out.
Authorities have not said publicly what sparked the fire or how Roy became trapped inside the building, which city officials said was up to code.
During his eulogy, Worcester firefighter Stephen McGurn recalled Roy’s enthusiasm for the department.
“Going through drill school, it was clear for everybody to see that he was the biggest guy out there. But let me tell you, he was also the best,” he said. “Roy was the first guy to step up for any task the training staff would offer for him. He was just so eager to learn.”
Worcester firefighter Sean Sullivan told mourners that he met Roy, who was 6 feet 5 inches tall, playing football for St. Peter Marian Junior-Senior High School in Worcester.
“I was new at the school, so I lined myself up with the biggest, baddest guy I saw on the other side, Roy. We hit each other as hard as we could, knocked each other down, and on my way up I kind of gave him a little shove back down. He didn’t like that,” Sullivan said. “He said, ‘Hey pal, try not to do stuff after the whistle.’ But I remember him grinning at me and I knew we were friends.”
Roy’s mother, Michele, told the Globe last week that her son loved to cook and travel with his family, taking his daughter on trips to Old Orchard Beach in Maine, Walt Disney World in Florida, and Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Even after joining the fire service, Roy continued to work in construction so he could afford a house in Shrewsbury, she said.
His casket was covered by a blue Worcester Fire Department flag and escorted to the church atop Engine 5. Roy was assigned to Ladder 4, which led the procession. Black bunting and flowers decorated the vehicle. Roy’s yellow helmet sat atop his casket during the Mass.
Before the funeral, firefighters from across New England lined Washington Square as Engine 5 rolled toward the church amid the sounds of bagpipes and drums.
Governor Charlie Baker, Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito, US Representative James McGovern, and US Senators Elizabeth Warren and Edward J. Markey attended the funeral.
As they left the church, many of them stopped to console little Ava, who was seated in the first pew.
Roy was buried at Notre Dame Cemetery in Worcester. The procession escorting his casket there pulled away from the church just before noon as Worcester firefighters and honor guards from fire departments across the region stood at attention.
Seven pallbearers walked alongside the engine truck carrying Roy’s casket as it drove away.
Outside the church, Joanne Vigliotti, said her son, Worcester firefighter Joseph Vigliotti, 33, was at the apartment fire where Roy died. She said he hasn’t said much about the blaze.
“It’s heart wrenching to see what they go through,” said Vigliotti, who was joined by her husband, Ralph. Ralph Vigliotti’s late father, Michael, was a Worcester firefighter.
“My heart goes out to Chris’s family and his little girl,” Joanne Vigliotti said.
Jorge Maisonet, 54, who lives in Worcester, watched the funeral procession leave the church.
“We’ve been through a lot of tragedies in the past,” he said. “I’m here to honor Chris.”