Ceremony adds two fallen New Hampshire firefighters to state memorial
Firefighters observe the 7th Annual New Hampshire Fallen Firefighters Memorial at the New Hampshire Fire Academy in Concord on Sunday, October 13, 2013. Chief Richard Schaefer of the Hopkinton Fire Department and Lt. James B. Clark of the Bedford fire department were the two names added to the 74 names of fallen firefighters already etched in the New Hampshire Fallen Fire Fighters Memorial.
WILL PARSON / Monitor staff
Kyleigh Delude, 2, held by her grandmother Kathy Schaefer and accompanied by Hopkinton fire chief Douglas Mumford, holds a carnation to lay at the name of her grandfather, late Hopkinton fire chief Richard Schaefer, during the 7th Annual New Hampshire Fallen Firefighters Memorial at the New Hampshire Fire Academy in Concord on Sunday, October 13, 2013. Schaefer died after suffering a heart attack while on duty last year, and along with James B. Clark of Bedford, was added to the 74 names of fallen firefighters already etched in the memorial at the fire academy.
WILL PARSON / Monitor staff
Chief Richard Schaefer of the Hopkinton Fire Department and Lt. James B. Clark of the Bedford fire department were the two names added to the 74 names of fallen firefighters already etched in the New Hampshire Fallen Fire Fighters Memorial at the New Hampshire Fire Academy in Concord on Sunday, October 13, 2013.
WILL PARSON / Monitor staff
Richard Schaefer, Hopkinton Fire chief.
A bell usually calls firefighters to action, springing them into swift response to an emergency.
But when the bell rang out over the firefighters gathered at the New Hampshire Fire Academy in Concord yesterday afternoon, they just sat and listened to its peals, heavy in the chilly air, solemn in the silence.
The bell rang yesterday as a symbolic last alarm for former Hopkinton fire chief Richard Schaefer and former Bedford fire lieutenant James Clark, who were officially added to the New Hampshire Fallen Firefighters Memorial during an annual ceremony. Schaefer, 52, died when he suffered a heart attack while working a busy shift at the Hopkinton State Fair in September 2012. Clark, 56 years old and a 26-year veteran of the Bedford department, died suddenly at his Goffstown home in April.
John Barthelmes, state safety commissioner, urged the large crowd to always remember the sacrifice made by firefighters who respond to emergencies across the state – and their families.
“The memorial behind me and your presence here today ensures that those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to the community will not be forgotten,” Barthelmes said. “The name of each firefighter inscribed on the memorial has its own special story to tell, but they also have a common thread reminding us of why we are all here today. We’re here to honor heroism. These firefighters understood the risk of their profession and each performed with resolute bravery and skill. We are here to honor sacrifice to one’s community and to remember the men and women of the fire service who put their lives on the line each and every day.
“We are also here to remember the families, realizing our words can offer you some comfort but can never replace the loss of your loved ones.”
Representatives from across the state read the 76 names on the memorial during the ceremony, and as each name cut through the chilly afternoon air yesterday, onlookers stood from their seats and walked toward the spot where those names
are cut permanently into stone.
Some stood alone. An older woman walked forward by herself, shoulders squared. Some walked hand-in-hand. A man led his wife by her elbow, holding her and stabilizing himself in the same grip.
Yet they all laid red or white carnations on the name of a loved one, a friend, a co-worker, a legacy whose name they have heard over the years around the local department. They had all come together to honor the state’s firefighters who have died in the line of duty, and to add Schaefer and Clark to their roll call.
Schaefer’s family sat in the front of the crowd, and after the ceremony, his wife, Kathy, hugged members of the Hopkinton Fire Department who she said have been another family to her over the last year. She led her young granddaughter back to the memorial, letting her lay another flower on her grandfather’s name.
“If it wasn’t for the firefighters . . . they helped me through this year,” Kathy said. “The fire department wasn’t just my husband’s family. They were all our family.”
Her husband would have been honored by the ceremony, she said, but would have shied away from the pomp and circumstance of the day. He was quiet, modest. It wasn’t until cards poured in after his death that Kathy realized the small favors – changing smoke detector batteries and car clocks, checking furnaces and making home visits – her husband was performing in the local community.
“I was really proud of him for that,” she said.
Schaefer’s name was the first from Hopkinton to ever be added to the memorial. Chief Doug Mumford, who now heads the Hopkinton Fire Department, said the annual ceremony carried extra weight as his firefighters gathered to honor the former chief.
“It’s hard for me to put into words,” Mumford said. “We ran through the gamut of emotions again, a year out.”
The department has tried to support not only the Schaefer family but also its own members as they all cope with the death of one of their own. They look out for each other, Mumford said.
“It’s heartbreaking in one aspect,” he said. “And a lot of pride in the fire department (in another).”
Some of the same individuals who gathered yesterday, including Mumford and Kathy, gathered in Maryland last weekend to add Schaefer’s name to the national memorial to fallen firefighters. Clark’s name will be added to that memorial next year.
Gov. Maggie Hassan spoke at the ceremony as well, praising the fire service for the sacrifice its members and their families make to keep the public safe.
“Although we only hold this ceremony once a year, the memory of our brave heroes is always with us, forever serving as a beacon of the strength and resiliency that defines the Granite State,” Hassan said.
After reading all the names on the memorial and laying flowers on its stone surface, the crowd listened quietly while a bell rang a last alarm for the fallen firefighters.
Amid official statements and symbols, a member of the Bedford Fire Department took the podium to read a poem by Clark titled “They Count on You,” which told the story of advice a lieutenant gave to young recruits as they began their careers as firefighters and ultimately died in the line of duty.
Clark’s daughter Allison, 17, joked that her dad, who was very private about the poems and artwork he created, would have been embarrassed his poem was shared to such a large audience.
“ ‘Ah, jeez,’ that’s what he would have said,” she said with a laugh.
But she and her sister Stephanie, 20, said they were proud to hear their father’s words read at the ceremony.
“It’s a beautiful place,” Stephanie said, looking around at the memorial where her father’s name will forever be engraved.
“‘You go in when they come out,” the lieutenant in the poem told the recruits. “You have to act fast, no room for doubt. Protecting the young, the old and the handicapped, they count on you. They count on that.’”
The poem was short, but its solemn words hung in the air over the crowd like the peals of the last alarm rung for its writer.
“When they died like heroes later that year, with those words still echoing in their ears,” he read. “‘You go in when they go out. You have to act fast, no room for doubt, protecting the young, the old and the handicapped.’”
(Megan Doyle can be reached at 369-3321 or firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @megan_e_doyle.)