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Firefighters honored in South Boston

Posted by Patrick Rosso  December 12, 2011 04:09 PM

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(Image courtesy William Noonan)


The Boston Fire Department has honored two South Boston firefighters who gave their lives serving the people of Boston. Joseph B. Sullivan, one of the firefighters honored, was killed Dec. 3, 1947, in a crash while riding in the infamous “White Elephant Truck.''

Sullivan, who joined the department in 1945 and only served three months before his tragic death, was honored Saturday Dec. 3 at the Ladder 19 firehouse on East Fourth Street. The ceremony was attended by his three daughters, four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

"It was a great day for my family to see him honored 64 years after his death," said Joseph Sullivan's daughter, Roseanne Sullivan, who now lives in northern California. "I feel much more a part of the history of South Boston than I ever have before."

According to Ladder 19's website authored by Ladder 19 firefighter Sean P. Coyle, Sullivan was not the only victim of the “White Elephant Truck” which came into service in 1941 and has its own fair share of history and mystery surrounding it.

In November 1942 the truck was involved in the Maverick Square fire that took the lives of six firefighters and almost destroyed the truck.

The “White Elephant” again saw tragedy in December 1947, when according to the Boston Globe, during a brake inspection, overturned killing Sullivan and throwing tillerman Arthur Spacone more than 30 feet.

Many have speculated that the curse ended when the truck was destroyed in that fatal crash. However, 12 years later Spacone lost his life, when he slipped from a step on Engine Company 2 leaving his wife and nine children.

Although the men who lost their lives will always live on in the memories of those who served with the Boston Fire Department and their families the writing on the fire house's garage door honoring them has been temporarily removed to honor Worcester firefighter Jon Davies who was killed in a fire in Worcester Dec. 8.

Lieutenant James Gavagan, who died 84 years ago, was also honored at the ceremony.

Email Patrick D. Rosso, patrick.d.rosso@gmail.com. Follow him @PDRosso, or friend him on Facebook.

(Image courtesy Stephen P. Sullivan)


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