The Enterprise, Brockton, Mass.
Mar. 11—BROCKTON — “My father would want me to be here,” Maureen McGeary said while looking at the Squad A fire engine that her grandfather rode in 80 years ago.
Wednesday was McGeary’s first time being able to attend the remembrance of her deceased grandfather, firefighter Matthew McGeary, of Ladder Company 3 in Brockton, who was one of 13 firefighters who died in the Strand Theatre fire in Brockton on March 10, 1941.
McGeary’s father passed in 2001. But the McGreary family lives on in this yearly remembrance.
The annual Strand Theatre Fire Memorial Service, this year in honor of the fire’s 80th anniversary, was held Wednesday morning outside Brockton City Hall. The event was sponsored by Brockton Firefighters Local 144, the city’s firefighters union, and speakers included Mayor Robert Sullivan, Fire Chief Michael Williams and Brockton Firefighters Local 144 President William Hill.
“We will never, ever forget the ultimate sacrifice that they made on that day,” said Sullivan during the remembrance, adding after the ceremony that “we will always honor them.”
Elected officials, current firefighters, former firefighters and the families of the deceased firefighters, along with members of the public, were there for the event.
Last year’s remembrance was one of last large gatherings Brockton Deputy Fire Chief Edward Williams remembers occurring before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Six days after the ceremony, Sullivan stood outside City Hall and declared a state of emergency.
“Didn’t feel any different,” said fire chaplain William McCoy, who opened and closed the remembrance with a prayer.
The remembrance featured a performance by the Brockton Firefighters Pipes and Drums, with a rendition of “Amazing Grace.”
The event concluded with Sullivan, Williams and Hill laying a wreath at the base of the Strand Theatre Firefighters Memorial, a bronze-and-granite statue that depicts the late former Fire Chief Edward Burrell, the last surviving member who responded to the Strand Theatre fire and died in 2014, eight years after the statue was erected.
This year’s annual remembrance also included a special reunion — the Squad A engine that responded to the 1941 fire and was missing for more than 70 years was recently located and purchased by the city and was on display Wednesday.
“This is a piece of Brockton history,” said retired Brockton Fire Chief Kenneth Galligan, standing in front of the partially restored Squad A engine.
After months of research, and working with Billerica firefighter Dave Feyler, a collector of antique fire trucks, Brockton Firefighters Local 144 was able to purchase the truck for restoration.
“Today is a proud day,” Sullivan said to those gathered while looking back at the Squad A engine.
This public event proceeded as it has for over 50 years, but without the memorial breakfast that takes place at the Local 144 Union building at 80 Perkins Ave., which was canceled because of COVID-19.
Hill said that the plan is to proceed with the breakfast again for next year’s remembrance.
Enterprise staff writer Darvence Chery can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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