HFRA Members Honor the Memories of Ten of Their Own
HFRA 2nd Memorial Plaque Presentation
Wednesday, October 8, 2014
Hamden Elks' Lodge
Getting Ready . . .
Program Page Images (in order) - CLICK to enlarge
Welcoming the Families
HFRA President Bob Mordecai opened the Association's 2nd Memorial Plaque Presentation by welcoming the families of ten deceased Association members being honored with memorial plaques. The informal gathering assembled in the Elks' Lodge Hall also included about thirty HFRA members along with over a dozen on and off-duty Hamden Fire Department personnel. In all, about seventy attended.
Hamden Fire Department and HFRA Chaplain, Rev. Owen Sanderson of Christ Lutheran Church, offered an opening prayer during which he asked for a moment of silence to remember Hartford Firefighter Kevin Bell, who died in a house fire the day before.
Rev. Sanderson has served officially as the department chaplain since November 1, 1970, but was active in department activities long before then. He is the only regular member of the HFRA who isn't actually retired.
Batt. Chief Sam DeBurra
Local 2687 V.P. Dave Beaton
Battalion Chief Sam DeBurra read a letter of greeting from Chief David Berardesca (see copy below), who was on the West Coast this week. Hamden Professional Firefighters Local 2687 Vice President, Firefighter Dave Beaton, also extended greetings from Local president Kurt Vogt and all members of Local 2687. Dep. Chief Gary Merwede is currently attending classes and also was unable to attend. We asked if he would convey his thoughts regarding the occasion, which he did in the letter below to President Bob Mordecai.
Chief Berardesca's Message (CLICK to enlarge)
Message from D/C Merwede (CLICK to enlarge)
L-R: HFRA members Bob Viglione, Jim Leddy, Jim Moore, Tom Doherty and Ray Ramelli were all asked to be presenters.
HFD Chaplain Rev. Owen Sanderson offered opening and closing prayers. In between, he shared some priceless insights on firehouse camaraderie.
- The Honorees Remembered -
Memorial plaques were presented to the families of the honorees in the order in which they retired. Additional family members were presented with 5 x 7 color photos of their plaque, suitable for framing, as well as DVDs featuring the Association's most recent "We Remember" video, which honors every known deceased career department member and the one department member who was killed in the line of duty (1927), a Centerville volunteer firefighter named Edward Meegan.
The first three memorial plaques were presented by retired Chief Jim Leddy on behalf of his late uncle, Chief V. Paul Leddy (1919-1994), who was Chief of the Department when the first three honorees retired.
Any plaque pictured below may be enlarged by clicking on the image.
The HFRA is grateful to the Barker Specialty Co. of Cheshire, Connecticut for their
outstanding assistance to our committee in the preparation of the memorial plaques.
Firefighter Sidney Trower's two daughters, Sylvia Bontatibus and Barbara Wysopal, accepted their father's memorial plaque from retired Chief Jim Leddy, who noted, "I was lucky enough to work with Sid Trower when I was a young kid down at Station 2 and Sid was the senior man. He was like a father figure to many of us down there. Everyone looked up to Sid, and it was an honor to work with him."
Next, Chief Leddy presented the plaque honoring Firefighter Joe Yoga to Joe's wife, Lillian, and daughter, Sally. The chief noted that both he and Joe grew up in the Mt. Carmel section of town and that he and Joe often played football together. "He was a great guy," noted Leddy, "and nobody ever had a bad word to say about Joe." After retiring from the Hamden Fire Deparetment, Joe worked as a dispatcher for the Cheshire Police Department for over twenty years.
Bruce Hillocks came up to the podium next to receive the memorial plaque honoring his father, Capt. Burton "Burt" Hillocks. Chief Leddy praised Capt. Hillocks, "Burt was a guy everybody knew in town, everybody liked in town." He added, "In the firehouse, Burt was always well respected. Whenever there was a promotional exam, Burt always scored right there on top. It was a great honor to work with Burt."
Retired Firefighter Ray Ramelli stood at the podium and chose his words thoughfully. "The word 'gentleman' is what I think of when I think of Hughie McLean." That is a sentiment universally shared by everyone who ever knew or worked with Hugh.
Hugh's son Brian accepted his father's memorial plaque on behalf of his mother, Jeanne, who, like all living widows of Hamden firefighters, is also an Honorary member of the HFRA.
There is a wonderful irony in Ray presenting Hugh's memorial plaque. Ray Ramelli had worked with Hugh McLean on Platoon 1 for over seventeen years, but they both had known each other since long before Ray joined the department in 1970. Over twenty years earlier, Hugh McLean and Ray's dad, Firefighter Al Ramelli, both joined the department within a year of each other.
Following Firefighter Al Ramelli's sudden death in 1972, after being stricken on duty, the annual "Alfred Ramelli Award" was established to recognize an outstanding firefighter, as voted by his peers. Hugh McLean was the Alfred Ramelli Award recipient for 1973.
Retired Lieutenant Bob Mordecai, president of the HFRA, presented the next plaque to Laura Wolf, wife of Firefighter Gerald "Jerry" Wolf. Bob and Jerry both worked on Platoon 2. "Jerry was well liked and loved by everybody." The crowd chuckled when Bob commented on the 1965 Mack that was at Station 9. "Jerry was the only one in the department who could drive it right." He then told the gathering that Jerry's brother-in-law was former Fire Chief Paul Wetmore. "Laura Wolf" added Bob, "is Paul's sister. And it is my honor to present her with this plaque"
Firefighter Richard "Ricky" Kenyon served for many years as a negotiator, first with the Hamden Paid Firemen's Sick Benefit Association and then with the Hamden Professional Firefighters Association, Local 2687, IAFF. Retired Capt. Bob Viglione presented the sixth memorial plaque to Ricky Kenyon's wife, Luciana, who came from Florida to receive it. Bob noted that he and Rick came on the job together in July 1969, "we started together, we trained together, and I worked with Ricky for a long time." Bob, who is also a barber, got a laugh recalling that when they started on the department Ricky had a lot of hair. "Great guy! Great guy!"
Firefighter Harry Cubbellotti, who came on the job in December 1957, was Hamden's most senior firefighter when he retired in 1993 at age 65. Harry's daughter, Dawn Farricielli, accompanied by her husband Dan and son Michael, was presented with Harry's memorial plaque by Capt. Viglione, who said that Harry used to come into his barber shop all the time. Capt. Viglione recalled that when they were on the job, "You got on the truck with Harry and you didn't even have to think. He always knew where he was going. He knew the house, who lived in it - always knew where the hydrants were. He was a wonderful man."
Retired Battalion Chief Tom Doherty presented the next plaque to the family of Firefighter Paul Reutenauer, who was a lifelong friend. Paul's first wife, Mary Lou, who passed away in 2000, was Tom's cousin. Paul had served on Platoon 3 with Tom for many years, first when Tom was a company officer at Headquarters and then when Tom became Platoon 3 shift commander. Four of Paul's five children were able to attend to accept his memorial plaque for his second wife, Connie, who lives in Florida.
At the podium, surrounded by Paul's family, Chief Doherty told the crowd that it was a very special honor for him to be asked to make this particular presentation. "Paul started out with my father [B/C Everett Doherty], and when he retired  Paul and I worked the rest of the time we were on the fire department, which is very unusual." He turned to Paul's children and ended his remarks emotionally with, "I miss Paul."
Retired Deputy Chief Clark Hurlburt was unable to attend to accept the memorial plaque honoring his brother, Lieutenant Howard Hurlburt, Jr. Retired Captain Dave Johnson, HFRA historian, accepted Howie's plaque on behalf of Clark, acknowledging a special personal connection with Howie, who had handed him an application to join Co. 5 back in 1966. "It was a wonderful life changing event for me, and I owe it to Howie"
Johnson praised Howie's skills as a firefighter, officer and paramedic, "They broke the mold with Howie. Anyone who knew Howie will tell you that he was one of a kind. He was among Hamden's first EMTs in 1971 and one of Hamden's first four paramedics in 1976 - a consummate professional. I know that Howie's brother, Clark, and his son, Ed, who lives in Maine, both appreciate the Association for remembering Howie - as do I"
Firefighter Jim Moore presented the final memorial plaque to Bonnie Cargan, wife of Firefighter Charlie "Chaz" Cargan. Jim was the perfect choice to make this presentation. One of Jim's closest friends on and off the job was Charlie Cargan. Charlie and Jim both came on the job in 1968 and remained close friends thereafter. As Jim handed Charlie's memorial plaque to Bonnie, his remarks were the briefest of the event: Praising both Charlie and another close friend, Paul Reutenauaer, Jim simply spoke, "God love 'em!" And this photo speaks for itself.
Today's ceremony would not have taken place without Jim's inspired suggestion at a very early meeting of the Association. Under "Good of the Association," Jim noted that, while flowers are usually a traditional way to express condolences, they last only a few days. They die and are then discarded. Jim suggested that a much longer-lasting and more meaningful alternative to honor a deceased member would be with the gift of a memorial plaque from the Association that would stay with the family forever. Thank you, Jim.
REFRESHMENTS FOLLOWED THE PRESENTATIONS
These two sheet cakes came from BJ's, complete with the Association's images.
Molly McKenna, daughter of Paul Reutenauer
SOME OF THE OTHER GUESTS . . .
Ff. Doug O'Rourke, Retired Fire Marshal and HFRA member Bob Westervelt,
Supt. Don Buechele, Batt. Chief Bill Fitzmaurice, and Ff. Gary Greene.
HFRA member Richie "Rambo" Maybury with 36-year veteran Batt. Chief Don LaBanca,
who was among several off-duty personnel who attended.
Firefighters Paul Anderson, Daryl Osiecki and Doug O'Rourke.
Daryl has been a generous photo contributor to the Association's website since the very beginning.
Ff. Kevin Shields, Capt. Ron Desroches and Ff. Paul Anderson were among the many on-duty personnel who were able to attend. Kevin's father was Hamden Firefighter Joseph Shields (1929-2008), who served on the department from the 1950s to 1980.
Co. 5 member Barb Johnson and HFRA member Bob Slater, who came all the way from
his Florida home to meet and greet his many old friends and honoree family members.
Bob was the last president of the Hamden Paid Firemen's Sick Benefit Association when it was still the bargaining unit, and was president of the interim bargaining unit, the Hamden Firefighters Association, before department non-management personnel joined the IAFF.