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BOSTON — Thousands of firefighters from across the country gathered in West Roxbury Thursday to honor one of two Boston firefighters killed in a nine-alarm brownstone blaze.
Firefighter Michael Kennedy, 33, and Lt. Ed Walsh, 43, of Engine 33 and Ladder 15, were killed in a nine-alarm fire that broke out March 26 at 298 Beacon St.
Kennedy served in the Marines before becoming a firefighter. He leaves behind his parents, Paul Kennedy and Kathy Crosby-Bell, longtime girlfriend Sarah Wessmann and extended family, which includes Alex Beauzile, a young boy he mentored for seven years through the Big Brothers association.
Kennedy’s flag-draped casket was brought to Holy Name Church in West Roxbury atop Boston Engine 33. Hundreds of bagpipers led the procession through West Roxbury as thousands of firefighters from all over the country and the world stood shoulder-to-shoulder, in some places 20 deep, saluting.
“What kind of person was this guy? He was a prankster, someone said. He was a freewheeling spirit. He always wanted to be there to help someone do the right thing. He was someone who lived for others, always determined to put a smile on the faces of those around him,” the Rev. John Unni said. “One guy said he was ‘genuinely a man for others.’ He lived his life to better others.”
Mayor Marty Walsh and Boston Fire Fighters Local 718 President Rich Paris will each pay tribute to Kennedy. Irish tenor Ronan Tynan will perform and Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley will deliver the final commendation.
Kennedy’s wake was held Wednesday, hours after Walsh was laid to rest. Hundreds lined Centre Street in West Roxbury to pay their respects.
“We had two firemen killed last year, as well, so we do know what it’s like, and unfortunately we’ve been through it,” Philadelphia firefighter Steven Weiler said.
Colleagues, friends, family and strangers came to say goodbye and thank you.
“My brother died of a heart attack last September in Jamaica Plain, and they were there within five minutes working on him, trying to revive him. That’s what they do. They’re there when you need them,” resident Tim Gilmartin said.
The line waiting to get in the West Roxbury funeral home ran up and down Centre Street. In the crowd, Sgt. Gregory Caron, a Marine, who owes a lot to Kennedy and the American Infidels biker group he helped found.
“I got injured in Afghanistan in 2011. I lost both my legs. When the unit came back here stateside instead of having a welcome home party, the blue, including Mike Kennedy did a fundraiser for me,” Caron said.
Kennedy will be buried at the Boston Firefighters Memorial Lot in Forest Hills Cemetery, Jamaica Plain.
A fund has been set up in their memory. Donations can be made to:
Lt. Walsh/Firefighter Kennedy Memorial Fund
c/o Boston Firefighter’s Credit Union
60 Hallet St.
Boston, MA 02124
Donations can also be made online on the Boston Firefighters Credit Union website.
BEDFORD, N.H. — When Gunnery Sgt. Bernie Ruchin was in combat on the island of Saipan during World War II, he took some artillery shrapnel in his right knee.
He didn’t know that the injury would eventually catch up to him in October when his knee gave way walking down the stairs of his home in Bedford. Ruchin tore four tendons and is currently going through rehabilitation.
Now, his fellow Marines are coming to his aid just as they would on the battlefield, but this time, they’re remodeling his bathroom.
The Building Dreams for Marines organization, a local nonprofit that does construction projects for Marines in need, is spearheading the effort.
Ruchin said he has trouble showering because of his knee injury, and the group is volunteering its efforts to build him a bathroom that is more suitable to his needs.
This is the fifth project for the organization, which has helped wounded Marines returning from recent combat missions. This time, it’s helping a Marine who served in combat for 12 years in WWII and Korea.
The renovation project will construct a new shower and put in a railing system to help Ruchin navigate his home more easily.
Ruchin said he likes to see such projects go to the younger guys, but he realized he needed some help and was convinced to let the Marines do the job.
The project is being overseen by Cobb Hill Construction and is expected to be completed by next Thursday.
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