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South Boston honors its fallen firefighters

Posted by Patrick Rosso  October 7, 2013 11:01 AM

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(Patrick D. Rosso/

Janet O’Connor and o-Anne Downing unveiled the new plaques at a ceremony Saturday.

Paint fades and flags become tattered, but South Boston residents have not forgotten the men and women who have fought bravely to protect the dense neighborhood from the threat of fire.

On Saturday, family members and friends gathered outside the fire station on East 4th Street to honor those who have perished in the line of duty.

“It’s important to remind the public that these men gave their lives,” said Sean Coyle, a South Boston firefighter who helped organize Saturday’s event.

With close to a 100 in attendance, current members of Engine 2 and Ladder 19, both based at the East 4th Street firehouse, unveiled plaques honoring four men from Engine 2 who perished in the line of duty over the years. Last year, plaques were unveiled to honor the men from Ladder 19 who also died serving the community.

Stephen Gunn and Edward Barrett both lost their lives in 1946 battling a blaze at the Irish-American Club; Arthur Spacone perished in 1959 at a fire on West Broadway; and Joseph Downing died in 1970 after a fighting a car fire.

The men’s names and their memories will now live on, cast in bronze, on the side of the red brick fire house.

“He loved being a fireman,” said Janet O’Connor, the granddaughter of the late-Edward Barrett. “I feel so much pride seeing his name up there.”

“This is just so wonderful,” Jo-Anne Downing, the wife of the late-Joseph Downing, said after the ceremony as she held back tears. “It’s difficult, but it’s a wonderful tribute.”

Although not everyone in attendance may have been familiar with the men, they were familiar with the firehouse.

“If you grew up in South Boston this was one of the places you came by as a kid and you got to understand the role of the fire fighter,” explained City Councilor Bill Linehan, a South Boston native. “When something happened in the early hours of the morning they were there to help.”

The cost of the plaques was covered by donations and the sale of t-shirts.

“We’re all proud to be part of the Boston fire fighter family,” said Captain Joseph Provenzano of Engine 2. “We are just glad we were able to raise the money to do this.”

The plaques, which line the front of the firehouse, will now be a permanent fixture on the structure, reminding both current fire fighters and new recruits of those that came before them and the sacrifices they made.

“These plaques remind the public, but also the fire fighters what an honor it is to be here and part of this family,” said Coyle.

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