A Vocation not a Job – Remembering Fallen Firefighters

June 26, 2015

by Bob Gibbs

The second Sunday in June has become the traditional day for firefighters around the country to honor their fellow firefighters who have passed away.  On June 14 the Salem Firefighters Relief Association held its annual firefighters memorial ceremony and breakfast.

This year the Salem firefighters added the names of three deceased firefighters to the memorial: Lieutenant William R. Bowlby, Firefighter Robert McPhee, and Firefighter Kevin P. Stackpole.

The ceremony was held at the Firefighters Memorial at Pine Grove Cemetery.  It was well attended by the families of firefighters and citizens of Salem who were there to show their respect for the people that protect the lives and property of Salem.

The ceremony began with a group of firefighters marching into position in front of the Firefighters’ Memorial.  This was followed by the honor guard presentation of the American flag.  Once the honor guard was in place, Nathan Clark gave the opening invocation.

Following the invocation, acting Fire Chief Paul Parisi made the following remarks:

“Each year on the second Sunday in June, we gather here at Pine Grove Cemetery to remember those who came before us.  The men we are honoring here today were special people.  They were special because they spent part of their life helping their fellow citizen in need.  Some of these men were volunteers; others were paid on-call; and yet others were full-time paid firefighters.  But what they all had in common is that they dedicated themselves to our community.  Firefighting isn’t a job; it’s a calling.  A vocation.  It’s not for the faint at heart, and not for those without courage.  In other words, it’s not for everyone.

“Chief Edward F. Crocker of the New York City Fire Department once said that ‘when a man becomes a fireman, his greatest act of bravery has been accomplished.  What he does after that is all in the line of work.’  There’s no doubt that the men on these monuments performed heroic acts; yet if you asked them about it they would undoubtedly tell you they were just doing their job.

“I would like to thank you all for taking time on a beautiful Sunday morning to honor those who have been memorialized here today.  Thank you to the families of these men who are in attendance today.  And for those of us who are still working, thank you to our families who give us the love and support we need every day to go out and do our jobs.”

Chief Parisi then invited Eleanor Foster and her grandsons, Chip and Philip, to come forward and place flowers at the monument in honor of Eleanor’s father, Firefighter Charles Lester Kimball, who made the ultimate sacrifice 61 years ago, when he was killed in the line of duty.

Chief Parisi then continued to read the names of the deceased Salem firefighters.  The list dated back to Firefighter Allen Chase, who lived from 1876-1921, and concluded with Lieutenant Kevin P. Stackpole, who passed away this year.

At the conclusion of the reading bagpiper Captain Skip Hebert, retired from the Manchester Fire Department, played “Amazing Grace.”

As Capt. Hebert slowly walked away and the sound of the bagpipes faded, SHS band trumpeters Jacob Chartran and Nathan Maynard played taps.

Nathan Clark then gave the benediction, which was followed by Chief Parisi thanking everyone for coming out on a beautiful Sunday morning and invited everyone back to the Central Fire Station for breakfast prepared by the firefighters.

As a final touch to the ceremony at the memorial, all of the retired firefighters in attendance gathered around the memorial for a group shot to memorialize their day.