The Eagle-Tribune, North Andover, Mass.
Jul. 7—ANDOVER — Firefighters and others across town are mourning the loss of James “Jimmy” Cuticchia, 63, who died on July 4.
“It was very fitting he would die on July 4th — he was always very patriotic,” said Mary Cuticchia, his wife.
The former Andover Fire Department lieutenant and fire department union leader fought fires for 34 years before retiring because of a work-related injury. He died of cancer caused by smoke inhalation he endured over his decades of working, Mary said.
“I want people to remember him for his dedication to the town and to helping people getting what was rightfully due to them,” Mary said.
Being a firefighter and his work with both the local and district unions “were a vehicle for that” work helping people, said Eric Teichert, president of the Andover Firefighters union.
“His work was always about getting support for people in need, supporting other members as a whole — not just in the workplace with safety — but also making sure firefighters and their families were cared for,” Teichert said.
In his last few weeks, Cuticchia told Teichert that he thought he hadn’t done enough.
“By no means did he ever let us down,” Teichert said. “We — us firefighters in Andover and across the state, and Andover taxpayers — are all in a better position now because of Jimmy.”
As a retirees’ representative on the Andover Retirement Board, Cuticchia organized a class-action lawsuit against the town for raising retiree’s healthcare premiums.
He also served on the town’s housing authority where “he was truly a champion for the underdog,” said state Sen. Barry Finegold, D-Andover, who was a close friend of Cuticchia.
Finegold recalled a recent conversation where Mary had found Cuticchia’s second grade West Elementary report card.
“It said ‘Jimmy has trouble with authority,'” Finegold recalled. “And that lasted his whole life. He didn’t use it in a bad way, he used it to fight for the underdog.”
His pursuit of helping others also led Cuticchia to his wife. He helped host a mental health workshop for firefighters after the 1999 Worchester Warehouse fire that killed six men at the hotel where Mary worked, she said.
During the two-week workshop they hit it off and they married shortly after, she said. He didn’t have a large family growing up, but quickly acclimated to Mary’s “big crowd” of a family with four children and now 10 grandchildren.
Cuticchia always put the family first, treating them all as his own children and grandchildren, she said.
“I gave him every grey hair on his head and mustache and he loved it,” she said.
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