Fallen heroes honored at firefighter memorial

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On Sunday, amid some special pomp and circumstance and a solemn silence, 19 Johnston firefighters whose names have been added to the beautiful stone outside Station 1 at 2289 Atwood Ave. were remembered during a moving memorial ceremony coordinated and emceed by Local 1950 general secretary-treasurer David Pingitore.

“Four more names have been added to the granite stones since our last memorial,” Keith Calci, Local 1950’s president, began. “These are the names of members of the Johnston Fire Department who have worked to build the foundation of what we have here today.”

Calci, who was one of three special speakers, read on: “From the first name on this memorial to the last, brother Vincent Crosby – who we just laid to rest less than two week ago – they have all helped make the department and union what it is today. So today, we remember and honor each and every one of them. As the names are read, we will think about each one of our past brothers and reflect back on the effect that they had on all of us here today.”

Calci called upon Fire Chief Peter Lamb to read the names, and as he did so, Fire Capt. John Robinson performed a ringing of the sparkling silver bell a total of 19 times in honor of each deceased member.

Those deceased firefighters are Raoul Lemoi, Leo E. Larkin, Vincent F. Girardi, William E. Jaspar, John D. Feeley, Timothy Grissom, Donald H. Courtemanche, Thomas P. Ricci, Angelo R. Cappelli Sr., John E. Shaw Jr., Domenico M. Ricci, James Draine, Albert D. Rega, Raymond Arcand, Joseph F. Green, Jean P. Arcand, Andrew Baynes, John Calouri Jr. and Vincent H. Crosby Jr.

Mayor Joseph Polisena, a former firefighter, offered his remarks.

“Today signifies that we will never forget those past and present Johnston firefighters,” he said. “For it is all those firefighters who are truly the silent heroes who collectively have saved hundreds upon hundreds of citizens and are often called upon via mutual aid to enter into another community to save and assist those residents.”

Polisena also wanted it known that firefighters are never truly off the clock.

“I truly believe the general public and some elected officials do not realize that because of your job being a firefighter … you’re on duty 24/7, not just when you report to your fire house,” he said. “Citizens have no idea of what you encounter on a daily basis; the average person could never face what firefighters have to face.”

Pingitore told the audience that the excellent relationship between the town and the Fire Department has made both stronger.

“Communication is a big part of the fire service and town government,” Pingitore said. “This relationship with the mayor’s office and Local 1950 allows us to have the [fire] houses we have and work on state-of-the-art equipment every day.”

He also thanked the Johnston Fire Honor Guard; Assistant Chief Ron Castelli for his reading of the Firemen’s Prayer; RI Piper Carl Pecchia, a retired Warwick firefighter; the Rev. Ryan J. Simas, the department’s chaplain, who delivered the invocation and closing prayer; and Tomas Dyer, a Johnston High student who sang the national anthem and “Amazing Grace.”

The ceremony ended with Local 1950 providing all attendees with a post-memorial buffet prepared by the brothers Spirito – former firefighter Greg and David – who operate Spirito’s Restaurant inside the Kelly-Gazzerro VFW Post 2812 on Plainfield Pike. 

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