Two years after crash, family and colleagues honor Johnston firefighter’s memory

‘Still miss him terribly’

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“Always remembered, never forgotten!”

Those words filled the air last Friday morning at Johnston Fire Department headquarters on Atwood Avenue when the close-knit brotherhood came together to honor a late firefighter, Richard R. Gemma, on the exact day of his tragic and unfortunate passing back on Aug. 27, 2019, from fatal injuries he sustained in a motorcycle accident in his native city of  Cranston.

Gemma’s parents, Richard and Kathy Gemma, headed a large group of people for the second annual memorial service, which was organized by Richard Boehm, the JFD’s battalion chief of fire and safety, and began inside in front of the late firefighter’s still-full locker before going outside.

“Richard will never, ever be forgotten,” Boehm began. “Thank you for sharing Richard with us. He has been missed very much and we still talk about him often.”

Boehm then called upon Father Richard Narciso, pastor at St. Robert Bellarmine Church and the department’s chaplain, who delivered two blessings — one in front of Gemma’s locker and the second outside at the Snow Fountain Weeping Cherry Tree, which was planted in July 2020 and serves as an everyday memorial for the 45-year-old firefighter.

“As firefighters, we live by the mantra that we will never forget our fallen members,” Fire Chief Peter Lamb said. “When we planted this tree, we did so with the intent that the tree would continue to grow and be present well into the future as a reminder of our brother Richard.”

The chief then paused before adding: “During these difficult times we now live in, and people do not always treat others as they should, we are reminded by Richard’s tragic accident that life changes in an instant. As we leave here today we remember Richard and we should all live our lives to the fullest and create memories with our families that will last forever.”

The late Gemma’s mother, Kathy, said: “We still miss him terribly. This is difficult, but my husband reassured me it’s an honor they do every year in his memory.”

That’s why firefighters as well as friends offered kind words to his parents, daughters Siobhan and Gianna and son Antonio prior to Boehm inviting the family to have a special photo taken in front of Engine 3, the JFD truck Gemma worked on before his passing.

As Boehm aligned the family, he reminded several attendees: “Richard’s dad is a retired member of our department, and Richard was a funny guy to work with and always there if you needed someone. He was a good firefighter and we all knew he would have our backs in a fire.”

The late Gemma, Boehm said, “was a charitable persons; he adopted families on his own as well as donating to [fire union Local] 1950 to adopt even more families. That’s why we all say Richard Gemma will always be remembered and never – ever – forgotten!”

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