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Firefighters statue finished; Sculptor, chief to unveil collaborative effort today.

Byline: Martin Luttrell

WORCESTER - Brian P. Hanlon recalled the grief he felt upon hearing about the six city firefighters who died in the Worcester Cold Storage and Warehouse Co. building accidentally set ablaze by a homeless couple. He wanted to submit a proposal for a memorial to be built behind Fire Department Headquarters on Grove Street, but was eventually put off by the scale of the project.

A few years later and 330 miles away, the New Jersey sculptor was "in the right place at the right time" when he noticed the Worcester Fire Department shirt being worn by fire Capt. Kevin Maloney at a fire training seminar in Baltimore. The ensuing conversation led Mr. Hanlon back to Worcester, where he already was doing a sculpture of the College of the Holy Cross graduate and Boston Celtics great Bob Cousy, and to a series of meetings with fire officials interested in a smaller remembrance at a station to be built on the site of the Cold Storage fire.

At 5 p.m. today a sculpture created by Mr. Hanlon will be unveiled by Fire Chief Gerard A. Dio at the new Franklin Street Fire Station to remember the firefighters who died nine years ago tonight searching for homeless people believed to be living in the former Cold Storage and Warehouse Co. building.

They are: Firefighter Timothy P. Jackson Sr., who lived in Hopedale and was the father of two children; Firefighter Paul A. Brotherton, 41, of Auburn, a father of six; Firefighter Jeremiah M. Lucey, 38, of Leicester, a father of two; Lt. Thomas E. Spencer, 42, of Worcester, a father of three; Firefighter Joseph T. McGuirk, 38, of Leicester, a father of two; and Firefighter James F. Lyons, 34, of Worcester. Firefighters Jackson and Lyons were posthumously promoted to the rank of lieutenant.

"I just think it's going to be a fitting tribute for the people that matter, the families," Mr. Hanlon said. "It's humbling to do this. I respect the hell out of what these guys do," he said as firefighters spread straw over muddy ground surrounding the sculpture, which was covered by a yellow tent earlier this week.

Mr. Hanlon, who has more than 200 public sculptures, has done several in honor of public safety personnel lost in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack.

He is working on another sculpture for Holy Cross and has been applying last-minute touches to the three-element remembrance on Franklin Street this week. He said that while the fundraising effort continues for an estimated $6.5 million memorial park behind the Grove Street fire headquarters, firefighters wanted a more personal remembrance in front of the new station on the former Cold Storage and Warehouse Co building site.

"I heard about it on the news," Mr. Hanlon said. "I was invited to propose something on the original memorial. When I checked into it, it didn't seem like the type of commission I do. The size of the project scared me off. This is a tribute, not a memorial.

"It's important that the people have the heart of the project in them. Gerry Dio is a smart, prudent firefighter. He has the heart of this project."

He said that while visiting Worcester for work on the Bob Cousy statue, he stopped at the Cold Storage and Warehouse Co. building site before the new station was under construction and stood there for hours. Since then he has visited the site almost a dozen times, and said his concept took shape as the steel for the station began to take shape.

"I like to use three elements," he said. "With this particular tribute, there's a figure that represents the present: a firefighter reflecting on what happened. He's in full modern gear. The detail is important.

"The next piece is a folded coat and helmet in front of the firefighter, on a pedestal. That is, in a subtle way, a memorial."

Then behind it is a 12-foot-long by 6-foot-high granite wall with a composition of six firefighters, he said.

"They're not meant to be likenesses, but to impart the spirit of the job," he pointed out. "That's an important distinction - the spirit of the job. They all work together."

Fire Lts. John A. Daly and Andrew White and Capt. Maloney started a series of fire safety and training seminars nine years ago that raised money for the larger planned memorial, of which some $100,000 or so is being used for the sculpture to be unveiled today, said Chief Dio.

"It's a remembrance, not a memorial. I don't want to get the two confused," Chief Dio said.

He said he had discussions with Mr. Hanlon about the concept and at one point had six firefighters from an engine, a ladder truck and a rescue truck suit up so the sculptor could see in detail how they looked.

"No one has seen the whole thing," he said of the sculpture now under blue plastic tarps. "They will on Dec. 3. I'm a committee of one. I hope they like it. The buck stops with me."

Mr. Hanlon said the earth tone granite will go well with the nearby station and helps convey what he is trying to impart to viewers.

"This has been an amazing experience so far," he said. "Worcester is a beautiful slice of American pie. These guys are down to earth and great to work with."

A portion of Franklin Street, from Grafton Street to Barbara Lane, will be closed from 3:30 to 7 p.m. today. Vehicles will be detoured during this time. Parking will be available at the Union Station Parking Garage for a flat rate of $1 from 3 to 9 p.m. for those attending the event.


CUTLINE: Sculptor Brian P. Hanlon, right, chats with Fire Lt. Michael O'Connell on Monday at the Franklin Street Fire Station.

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Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Dec 3, 2008
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