The Marblehead Fire Department, local officials and residents observed Firefighters Memorial on Sunday June 11 morning with a 15-minute ceremony at the Waterside Cemetery firefighters’ memorial plot. This annual observance, staged in communities nationwide, pays tribute to firefighters who have fallen in the line of duty.
Fire Chief Jason Gilliland emphasized that the ceremony serves as a reminder of the sacrifices that firefighters make in “protecting the lives and property of Marblehead’s citizens.”
“One of the most important things we can do as firefighters is never forget the sacrifices made by those who went before us, nor the lessons we have learned from them,” stated Gilliland.
Capt. Eric Ridge presided over the morning ceremony, stating, “Firefighters’ Sunday for us is a time when we remember all those we lost, including our retirees, firefighters around the commonwealth and throughout the country.”
Ridge, whose hoarse voice resulted from an on-the-job incident, served as a potent reminder of the dangers firefighters face daily.
“I had many remarks prepared, but I was shocked by an automated external defibrillator on a call yesterday,” he revealed. “I never thought something like that could happen — but it did.”
Recently, Gilliland delved into the history of the Waterside Cemetery’s firefighter memorial monument.
“In 1927, the Marblehead Firefighters Relief Association commissioned the Kimball Brothers of Salem to carve a suitable monument,” said Gilliland. “Carved from Vermont marble, the six-foot-six-inch monument features a deep relief profile of a firefighter on its front.”
The local relief association embarked on the monument project intending to celebrate, honor and inspire Marblehead firefighters.Gilliland discovered the monument cost $1,080 in Jan. 1, 1929. “Adjusted for inflation, the monument would have cost $19,159 today,” added Gilliland.
The monument was dedicated at noon on Aug. 25, 1929, during the town’s tercentenary celebration, which included a parade.
“Firefighters marched from the School Street station to Waterside Cemetery. In a brief ceremony, the monument was unveiled by 6-year-old Luxton Martin, grandson of Firefighter John A. Martin, the founder of the Marblehead Firefighter Relief Association, established in 1880.”
The Fire Department’s chaplain, Rev. Timothy Moran of Our Lady, Star of the Sea Catholic Church, both opened and closed the ceremony in prayer.
“We honor those who spent their lives with great courage and generosity for the safety and protection of their brothers and sisters,” said Moran. “Their legacy enriches our lives with the goodness they’ve demonstrated over the years.”