Apparatus & Equipment, Firefighting, Legal

Obituary for CSFA Chaplain Monsignor John Sammon

Monsignor John Sammon, CSFA Chaplain since 1946, died Friday, November 24. He was 90 years old.
Born in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, Sammon attended Boston College, College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts and St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore before his ordination in 1942. His first California assignment was at Our Lady of Victory Catholic Church in Compton.

Following his assignment in Compton, Sammon served at St. Gregory’s in Los Angeles. Los Angeles Fire Department’s Station 45 was at the end of the block, and Sammon soon found himself the chaplain for the city fire department. Los Angeles firefighters urged him to become involved with CSFA, and at the age of 30 he became the Association’s official chaplain.

Over the years Sammon was also chaplain for the Los Angeles and Santa Monica police departments and the Santa Monica Fire Department. He was also involved as a chaplain for law enforcement and fire agencies in Orange County; the California Fire Chiefs Association and the former Los Angeles Rams. As for the Rams, Sammon recalled once, “I kept telling them, ‘If I pray and you play, we’ll win,'” he said. “Well, I did my part.”

When the Diocese of Orange was established in 1976, Sammon was appointed the first vicar for pastoral and community affairs, which included serving as chaplain to local fire and police departments.

He’d always had a special spot in his heart for fire and law enforcement personnel. “They are always there to support others,” he said once, “but no one is there to support them.” Sammon was.

He kept a police and fire scanner in his car and would show up at a 2 a.m. fire, without even having been asked.

Once Sammon saw a woman at the Santa Ana Civic Center showing her grandson a memorial statue for police officers. When the boy asked about one for firefighters, she said there wasn’t one.

Thirteen years later, largely through Sammon’s efforts, a monument for firefighters was erected at the Civic Center.

Sammon worked from a diocese office in Orange filled with books and various plaques and tributes awarded from the numerous groups he served. The office was also adorned with hundreds of stuffed animals â�” including many of Snoopy. Sammon was a huge fan of the “Peanuts” comic strip. He was a lover of ice cream, and the fire service tradition of eating it to celebrate awards or a firefighter getting their picture in the newspaper. He is also credited with coining “The Fire Family”, a term he used often in speeches, sermons, and regular essays in fire service publications.

He summed up his approach to ministering to the fire service in this way in a 1993 interview:

“My point was always to be around to help the guys, rather than to be around to save them. I was told when I first came in, by an old battalion chief up in LA, that the only way the (chaplain) program was going to work was if the guys didn’t feel they had to run away if they saw me coming.”

His low-key ministering reached thousands in the fire service over the years. His observation was that firefighters look upon religion as something very personal and extremely sensitive.

“I’m not saying that firefighters are not religious, but over the years I have found that their relationship (with God) is more personal and private. Quite a few do attend church, but religion is something that is not common station talk. They don’t wear it on their sleeve, but they are very careful, and I think very attentive to the spiritual values as well as a lot of moral values and civic values.”

Given his wit, humor and low-key approach, Sammon was loved and known by the fire service throughout California.

“I have had the privilege and honor or knowing and working with Monsignor Sammon for the past 15 years. He will always be remembered as a caring individual who was highly committed to supporting our fire service family. Even though he has left this earth, his legacy and the results of his service and accomplishments will remain with us forever,” said Kevin Nida President of CSFA.

He is survived by many nieces and nephews.

Civil Service:

Thursday, November 30, 2006 at 11:00 a.m.

Location: Crystal Cathedral
12141 Lewis Street
Garden Grove, CA 92840

The CSFA Steamer & Steamer Team will be attending this service.

Go to: http://www.crystalcathedral.org/visitors/driving.html for location and driving directions. An Ice Cream Social Reception Immediately Following.

Monsignor Sammon will be escorted from the mortuary to the Crystal Cathedral by fire engines and the family. Units participating in the escort have been specifically identified and details provided to the respective agencies.

There will be a static display of fire apparatus in the Crystal Cathedral parking lot. Other fire departments are welcome to send fire apparatus, or have personnel attend. All apparatus and personnel should arrive at the Crystal Cathedral by 10:30 a.m. sharp. The family has requested that fire service members attend in uniform.

For additional information or questions about the service, contact: OCFA Division Chief Dan Drake @ (714) 573-6041, Captain Kirk Wells @ (714) 573-6027, or Executive Assistant Olivia Moeller @ (714) 573-6023

Prayer Vigil:

Thursday, November 30, 2006 at 7:00 p.m.

Location: Holy Family Cathedral
566 South Glassell
Orange, CA 92866-3017

Funeral Mass:

Friday, December 1, 2006 at 10:00 a.m.

Location: Holy Family Cathedral
566 South Glassell
Orange, CA 92866-3017

Flowers/Donations: Flower arrangements for the memorial service should be sent to the Crystal Cathedral, where OCFA personnel will be standing by beginning at 10:00 a.m. In lieu of flowers it is requested that donations may be made to the following:

The Society for the Propagation of the Faith
C/O The Diocese of Orange
P.O. Box 14195
Orange, CA 92863

Orange County Fire Services Memorial
C/O Orange County Fire Services Association
1425 E. Lincoln Ave., Suite E
Anaheim, CA 92805-2210
(714) 284-0623

Peace Officers’ Memorial
P.O. Box 241
Santa Ana, CA 92702
(714) 647-4135

Visit the CFSA Web site HERE