THE DEATH OF CHIEF JOHN O. TABER
Head of the Boston Fire Department Passes on—One of the Best Known of Fire-Fighters—Details of the Funeral
THE news of the death of Fire Chief John Otis Taber, who, as briefly announced in last issue, passed away on December 16. cast a pall of sorrow over the entire city of Boston where he was loved for his fine personal character and admired for his ability as a fire fighter and leader. He ranked as one of the most progressive and foremost fire department executives in the world.
Chief Taber’s death came following an illness of two weeks at the home of his daughter, Mrs. Henry Lawler, Roslindale, Boston, after a gallant fight against a severe bronchial affliction that gripped his lungs following a heavy cold contracted while returning from a vacation trip to Jacksonville, Florida.
Chief Taber had served less than three years as head of the Boston Fire Department, having been appointed March 7, 1922, as successor to Chief Peter E. Walsh. Prior to this he had Been Senior Deputy Chief and was for years in charge of the high value section of the city with headquarters at the Fort Hill Square fire station. He has served in every rank of the department from private up and figured in many thrilling rescues and exploits which are still the talk of the Boston fire houses.
Under his supervision the department repair shops were reorganized and placed upon an efficient and systematic basis. Since he has been chief two of the greatest forward steps ever made in fire fighting methods in Boston have taken place, namely, the complete motorization of the department and the installation of the two platoon system.
John O. Taber was born in Boston, June 24, 1863, and educated in the public schools. In his early youth he went to sea and when he was 13 years old shipped as cabin boy on a ship bound from New York to Galveston. Later he enlisted in the navy and rose to the rank of chief gunner’s mate. He was awarded a certificate of merit and commendation by the government for risking his life in defense of the United States minister to Peru when an attempt was made to assassinate the American diplomat. The chief carried to his grave a scar from the dirk which he was able to deflect as he leaped on a Peruvian fanatic and saved the life of the minister. After leaving the navy Taber was employed for a time as a driver for Adams Express Company.
He was appointed to the Boston fire department on January 1, 1889, and was assigned as a call man with engine 9 in East Boston. He was promoted to lieutenant of engine 3 on June 28, 1895; to captain in 1900, and to district chief on March 9, 1906. He was advanced to the rank of senior deputy chief on March 11, 1914.
The chief is survived by his son, John O. Taber, Jr., who is superintendent of public works in Attleboro, Mass.; and by two daughters, Mrs. Henry Lawler, and Mrs. John G. Breslin. Chief Taber was a member of a number of organizations including Mount Vernon Council, Knights of Columbus; the Fire Chiefs’ Club of Massachusetts, the New England Association of Fire Chiefs, and the International Association of Fire Engineers. He was an honorary member of the Box 52 Association, Inc., of Boston, and of the Societe des Sapeurs et Pompiers of Paris, France.
Fire Commissioner Theodore A. Glynn ordered the flags on all houses of the department placed at half staff and that headquarters on Bristol street and the chiefs office at the quarters of Engine 26-35 on Mason street be draped tn mourning for a period of thirty days.
(Continued an page 1380)
Chief Taber’s Funeral
(Continued from page 1365)
Fire Commissioner Theodore A. Glynn issued the following statement on the death of Chief Taber:
“After thirty-seven years of active and vigorous service in the Boston fire department Chief John Otis Taber was called to his reward this morning. Chief Taber’s years in the harness were fruitful ones for the city of Boston. He was a fire chief of international reputation, and gave to the city a knowledge of fire matters that was excelled by no chief in the country.
“His record as shown at headquarters is a glorious one. Appointed to the department on January 4, 1888, he passed through all the ranks and grades to his appointment as chief of department on March 7, 1922. His years of service are marked with heroic acts and rescues; a long list of injuries signifies that in the performance of his duty as a fireman he was heroic and brave. It is to be regretted that the city has been deprived of his services, and it is certain that his years were cut short because of the ardor for his work and the injuries he received in the line of duty.”
The funeral was held on the morning of December 18, more than 500 uniformed firemen marching in the procession that was nearly a mile long. In the line of march were representatives of the New England Association of Fire Chiefs, the Massachusetts Fire Chiefs’ Club; the Officers’ Club, and the Russell Club, of the Boston Fire Department; the Boston Protective Department, the Box 52 Association, the Sparks’ Club of Boston, Roxbury, Charlestown, and Everett Veteran Firemen’s Association, the Winisimmet Veterans of Chelsea, and other organizations, with a large delegation of city officials, relatives and friends. The various organizations assembled at 9 o’clock at the quarters of Engine Company No. 45 in Roslindale Square and marched to the late chief’s residence. From the house the procession proceeded to the Church of the Sacred Heart, where a solemn high mass of requiem was celebrated.
Active pall bearers were Deputy Chief Henry A. Fox, Deputy Chief Edward J. Shallow, District Chief Henry Power, District Chief Michael Teehan, District Chief Thomas H. Downey, District Chief Philip A. Tague, Deputy Chief Albert J. Caulfield, and Deputy Chief Frank A. Sweeney.
The honorary bearers were Mayor James M. Curley, Police Commissioner Herbert A. Wilson, Superintendent of Police Michael H. Crowley, Building Commissioner John Mahoney, John A. Donoghue, president of the City Council; Thomas W. O’Connell, secretary to the late chief; Herbert J. Hickey, secretary to Fire Commissioner Glynn; Walter J. Burke, superintendent of the wire division; Edward I. Tierney, chief of the Fire Prevention Bureau; George F. Murphy, Chief Clerk James P. Maloney, John Ahearn, I. Osgood, engineer of the Boston Board of Fire Underwriters; Dr. William J. McNally, fire department physician; William E. Brennan, grand knight, Mt. Vernon Council, Knights of Columbus, William Hill, Paul Snyder, Harold J. Field, Edward Hayes, Maurice Ahearn, and Martin J. Conroy.
The automobile of the late chief preceded the hearse in the line. The car was draped in black and the white helmet of the chief was placed in a reversed position on the hood of the car. The two drivers of the chief, John J. Coakley and William F. Ryan, rode in the car, while beside it on either hand walked Chief Taber’s two aids, Lieut. Carl S. Bowers and Lieut. James F. Shea.
After the conclusion of the service the procession continued to Old Calvary Cemetery where interment took place. The grave was covered with a profusion of beautiful floral tributes. The funeral arrangements were in charge of Deputy Chief Walter L. McLean, and the large delegation of firemen present was headed by Fire Commissioner Theodore A. Glynn and Acting Chief Daniel F. Sennott, of the Boston Fire Department, and Superintendent Henry A. Thompson, of the Boston Protective Department. As the casket was borne from the church the alarm bells in all the fire houses in the city tolled 61 strikes, one for each year of Chief Taber’s life. The fire headquarters building on Bristol Street and the station of Engine Companies 26 and 33 on Mason Street where the chief had his office are draped in black and all city flags are at half-staff for a period of thirty days.
Among the fire chiefs who attended the services were:
Chief Patrick J. Hurley, of Holyoke; Chief George L. Johnson, of Waltham; Chief Sewall M. Rich, of Somerville; Chief James M. Casey, of Cambridge; Chief John W. O’Hearn, of Watertown; Chief Edward Dahill, of New Bedford; Chief Seldon R. Allen, of Brookline; Chief Clarence Randiett, of Newton; Chief David A. Tierney, of Arlington; Chief Edward Saunders, of Lowell; Chief Edward C. Chase, of Lynn; Chief Alfred Mead, of Quincy; Chief Nichols, of Malden; Chief Charlesworth, of Providence, R. I.; Chief Hill, of Belmont; Chief Tenney, of Braintree; Chief Thomas Mahoney, of Westfield; Chief John W. Moran, of Hartford. Conn.; Chief Mahoney, of Peabody; Chief William C. Shepard, of Pittsfield; Chief Johnson, of Bridgeport. Conn.; Chief Brown, of Central Falls, R. I.; Chief Crosby, of Pawtucket, R. I.; Chief Upham, of Needham; and Ex-Chief Reuben D. Weekes, of Providence. R. I.