It's a city that knows this kind of goodbye all too well. On a cold, gray Thursday, Worcester was a sea of dark blue. Firefighters from all over Massachusetts and New England — most in their dress uniforms, some in their firefighting gear — lined the streets to pay tribute to Jon Davies.
Among them was New Bedford Fire rookie Paul Rozario, who's been on the job only six months.
"You never want something like this to happen," Rozario said. "We signed up for this job. I'm just glad to be here to support."
Also in the crowd was Lt. Michael Anzalone of Somerville — like Davies, a 17-year fire veteran.
"He definitely is a brother of mine. He's part of the family. He's part of the institution," Anzalone said. "I was here for the Worcester Six, and I can't believe we're out here for another funeral. It's very unfortunate."
Twelve years after losing six of their own in a warehouse fire, Worcester firefighters led the way for a fallen brother’s final goodbye once again. Forty-three-year-old Davies died Dec. 8 after going back into a burning triple-decker to search for someone when a wall collapsed on him.
Marching under a massive American flag hanging between two ladder trucks, his fellow firefighters rounded a corner from Shrewsbury Street to Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church. Following them was Davies’ Rescue 1 truck. Then came his flag-draped casket, riding high aboard Engine 12, and his helmet, carried high in the hands of one of his colleagues
Inside the packed church, Fire Department chaplain the Rev. Walter Riley reflected on being with Davies in the hospital after doctors stopped performing CPR on him. He looked like he was napping peacefully, Riley said. But he wasn’t resting from a day well spent — it was a life well spent.
“In his 43 years of life, Jon came to be affectionately known as a big teddy bear — big and serious on the outside with a heart of gold on the inside,” Riley said.
Riley told mourners that Davies’ act of laying down his life for another changes one’s community and personal world.
“Because the act that was performed by such a person remains embedded in our souls for the rest of our lives,” he said. “Its power is realized in our hurt, in our pain, in our admiration, in our respect.”
Davies’ brother recalled him as a proud and devoted father to his three sons and uncle to his nephew, an avid outdoorsman, and a selfless, compassionate guy.
Among the others who knew him best? His firefighting partner, Brian Carroll, who in eulogizing Davies spoke of his big smile, big muscles and big appetite for food and life.
“John was a special person to me and anyone he came in contact with,” Carroll said.
The two will forever share a special bond. They entered that burning house to do the final search together. But though also trapped in the collapse, Carroll made it out alive.
“John paid the ultimate sacrifice, and if you knew him like I did, you would expect nothing less,” he reflected.
This article was originally published on December 15, 2011.
This program aired on December 15, 2011.