Day of tears and pride
WHITMAN — Whitman firefighters held their annual Firefighters Memorial ceremonies on Sunday June 7 to honor those who served and have passed on. This year, sadly there was another name to add to the department’s memorial walkway — the late Glenn Coughlin.
Joyce Coughlin, her daughters, extended family and friends attended the event honoring her husband’s years of service in the Whitman Fire Department. They unveiled the brick engraved in his memory at the front of Fire Station on Temple Street.
The family was presented a certificate and an encased flag, which had flown over the Capitol building in Washington at the request of U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch, D-Mass.
“My dad passed away January 26, 2014,” said Dalyce Coughlin, the second youngest daughter of the retired firefighter. She was present Sunday with her three sisters Debbie, Donna, and Lisa. “He was a firefighter for 32 years. The support we received from the Fire Deptartment at his time of passing was so overwhelming.”
Joyce and Glenn were heading to Florida with their truck and camper, when he suffered a heart attack at a Virginia campground.
“The fire services and police of Virginia were right there for my Mom,” Dalyce said. “It was just unbelievable the amount of people that were there for her at her time of need, when us girls couldn’t be. It meant so much to us. We are such a close family.”
Dalyce described her dad as an amazing husband, father, grandfather and firefighter.
“The presentation of the flag and certificate from Congressman Lynch was just outstanding,” she said.
“It was a beautiful day for a tribute to our father. We appreciated it so much. Everyone who turned out for the dedication,” said Donna Coughlin-Saccone, Glenn’s second-oldest daughter.
Bob Schmitt, 87, also in attendance spoke briefly at the memorial. He was a call firefighter for 47 years, was a colleague of Coughlin and a longtime friend.
During the wreath-laying ceremony, Schmitt announced that the plot of land at the firefighters’ memorial site in Colebrook Cemetery will now be turned over to the Whitman Fire Department.
Schmitt, who has been married 66 years this fall, is a lifelong Whitman resident. He was the organizer and founder of the Whitman Community Emergency Response Team (CERT). They began in 2003 with approximately 100 people participating and 20 committed to serve the town. He also commanded the Whitman Emergency Management for the last 16 years before his retirement.
Schmitt also announced a windfall for the surviving members who had contributed to a now-defunct insurance plan.
“Way back in 1895, our town formed an insurance plan through the state for volunteer firefighters. We each donated 10 cents a month towards the plan -there were about 40 volunteers at the time,” said Schmitt.
One hundred and twenty years after the account’s inception, Schmitt made the request to cancel and dissolve the fund. The benefits will be distributed to its last nine surviving members.
“I am one of the oldest involved in the program,” he said. “It provided a death benefit or if there was a need, due to illness.”
Firefighter’s memorial Sunday was also a part of the organization’s
Inauguration in 1960, which is why so many names are read during the bell toll, he said.
“There is a lot of tradition,” Schmitt said. “There is great camaraderie and they take care of themselves and each other. … You look out for the person before you and behind you because that is who takes care of you. Firefighters are trained to back up someone else at all times.”
Schmitt had the opportunity to be a full-time firefighter in Whitman but also had another career as a vice president of the American Sandpaper company in Rockland. He remained a career volunteer until he retired.
Among the many town officials and honorable guests who attended Sunday’s services was Chief Timothy Grenno, who formally announced the installation of the Rev. Josh Gray as the new official chaplain of the Whitman Fire Department. Gray is also the minister at the First Congregational Church in Whitman.
“We are looking forward to having him as a familiar face. He will be greatly involved,” said Grenno.
“I would like to thank the men and women of the Whitman fire services for all they do in the community,” Gray said. “I have lots to learn about what you all do. I am looking forward to it.”
The service concluded with a march back to the station after the prayer at Colebrook Cemetery.
Whitman Fire/Rescue posted a special thank you on their social media to Whitman Police, Whitman American Legion, Knights of Columbus, State Rep. Geoff Diehl, R-Whitman; Selectman Dan Salvucci, Town Administrator Frank Lynam and a special thank you was extended to Lynch for his special presentation to the Coughlin family.