Story by Lee Ryan
Photos by Bob Bartosz
On September 17, 2019, the Camden (NJ) Fire Department honored two members who were killed in the line of duty long ago by unveiling new gravestones at Arlington Park Cemetery in Pennsauken, New Jersey. A crowd of nearly 60 current and retired firefighters, guests, and dignitaries honored Chief of Department Charles Worthington and Captain Martin B. Carrigan.
Chief Worthington was killed on May 8, 1914 when he fell 25 feet from a roof while directing members at a two-alarm fire at the Camden Electro Heating Company at 12 George St. in Camden. The chief had stepped back to avoid a skylight on the roof in heavy smoke and fire conditions. He was rushed to the hospital but died en route, suffering a fractured skull and a severe laceration to his neck.
On January 18, 1922, Captain Carrigan was critically injured as he and the crew of Engine Company 2 directed two hose streams onto the burning multi-story Economy Store at 427-429 Kaighns Ave. in Camden from the roof of a one-story exposure. The store wall collapsed onto the firefighters, crushing the one-story building into its basement. Police and fire personnel rescued the injured firefighters, who were rushed to the hospital. Captain Carrigan was severely burned and had fractured his skull. He succumbed to his injuries at 6:25 the next morning.
While doing research for the Camden Fire Department’s 125th anniversary book, Lee Ryan discovered that neither of the fire officers’ graves were marked and that they were buried in the same cemetery. In meeting with cemetery staff, he was informed that Chief Worthington’s family had requested that his grave not be marked. Ryan was told that a letter from a family member granting permission for a gravestone would be required before proceeding. Ryan contacted Phil Cohen, who tracked down a granddaughter of Chief Worthington who resided in Florida. She supplied the written permission to the cemetery.
Ryan met with cemetery staff in the summer of 2018 and they informed him that the letter was on file and that he could proceed with the project. At the Camden Fire Department reunion dinner held in September 2018, he approached reunion organizer Ron Angemi about raising funds for the project. Angemi agreed to “pass a hat” at the dinner. Those generous donations enabled Ryan to approach Camden NJ IAFF Local 2578 President Sam Munoz and IAFF Local 788 Vice President Pete Perez to request assistance for the project. The unions set up a GoFundMe page and solicited donation along with Ryan. Enough money was raised and the gravestones were ordered by Local 2578. Thanks to Arlington Park Cemetery staff and management and the owner of New Jersey Marble & Granite in Pennsauken, who both provided discounts for the foundations and gravestones. Thanks to Emerald Society Piper (Ret.) Camden captain David Dilks, Camden Fire Department Chaplain Firefighter Geraldo Medina, and Camden City Mayor Frank Moran for their help. The three contacted Camden City (NJ) Chief of Department Michael Harper who agreed with the project and the unveiling ceremony. Plans advanced and the ceremony held. This year is the 150th anniversary of the paid department in Camden. After 100+ years, the Camden captain & chief can finally rest in peace.
Lee Ryan has served as the historian of the Camden (NJ) Fire Department.