It has been three difficult years for Richard and Kathleen Gemma — as well as the highly-respected brotherhood of the Johnston Fire Department — since the passing of Richard R. Gemma.
“When you go through a death in the family it’s horrible!” exclaimed Richard Gemma Sr., who was a Johnston Firefighter for a quarter century. “We as parents are supposed to go before our kids; no parent in the world is prepared for such a tragedy like this.”
Back on Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2019, Firefighter Gemma was riding his motorcycle and was only 100 yards from his home in Cranston when he crashed and was killed.
Since then, as the Snow Fountain Weeping Tree which was planted in his memory in the now gloriously green park outside JFD Headquarters on Atwood Avenue, continues to grow and reflect the words “Always Remembered, Never Forgotten,” showing how much Gemma meant to his JFD brothers and sisters.
The brief yet moving memorial service included two blessings — one at the late Gemma’s still full locker inside headquarters and the other near the special tree and memorial plaque — from Rev. Richard Narciso, the pastor at Saint Robert Bellarmine Church who serves as the JFD Chaplin.
There were also several short speeches, one from Battalion Chief of Fire and Rescue Richard Boehm, who organized the ceremony, and Johnston Fire Chief Peter Lamb.
“Richard was a great guy,” said Boehm as he welcomed and thanked an impressive gathering of the late Gemma’s family and friends as well as a super showing from on-and-off-duty Johnston Firefighters. “He had a good sense of humor and was well respected by all the members or the department.”
Even Chief Lamb, who told the large crowd how “proud he is of all our members who do such a great job,” issued what many attendees agreed was an impressive and important request.
“Let’s put this all into the proper perspective,” Lamb began. “So, let’s all leave here today and do random acts of kindness; let’s do this in Richard’s memory.”
Gemma graduated from Cranston High School East and was hired as a Johnston Firefighter in April of 2013. In addition to his parents, he is survived by two daughters, Siobhan and Gianna, and a son Antonio.
As noted, the memorial service was held outside JFD headquarters which, as Boehm said “once looked like a cow pasture and now looks like pristine park thanks to Lt. Paul Livoli, Firefighter Chris DelFino and the DPW.
“Richard would be proud of today’s ceremony,” someone in the crowd suggested, reinforcing the respect people had for Richard R. Gemma (Jan. 29, 1974 - Aug. 27, 2019).
“Rest in Peace,” as the T-shirts that many people were wearing read: “Gemma — Johnston Firefighter, Helmet Shield No. 146.”