Hopkinton, Bedford firefighter names added to memorial
CONCORD — The names of two New Hampshire firefighters who died in the line of duty were added to the Fallen Firefighters Memorial Sunday.
Hopkinton Fire Chief Richard Schaefer and Bedford Lt. James Clark both died in the past year of fire service-related heart attacks.
"The name of each firefighter inscribed on the memorial has its own special story to tell, but they also have a common thread reminding us of why we are here," state Public Safety Commissioner John Barthelmes said. "We are here to honor heroism — these firefighters understood the risk of their profession and each performed with resolute bravery and skill."
Gov. Maggie Hassan issued the annual proclamation of Firefighters Memorial Day, marked in New Hampshire on the second Sunday of each October.
"Public safety is the most important task of any government; our people, our families and our economy cannot thrive without safe communities," the governor said. "The New Hampshire Fallen Firefighters Memorial reminds us of how much we owe those who bravely rush into dangerous situations and serves as an everlasting symbol of our deep appreciation of their sacrifice and their service."
The addition of two additional names to the memorial was also a reminder of the firefighters who had fallen before them.
State Fire Marshal William Degnan promised that Schaefer and Clark, like the 74 New Hampshire names already inscribed, will not be forgotten.
"Our words can offer you some comfort but cannot ever replace the loss of your loved ones," he said to the gathered families. "We must never forget the sacrifice of firefighters who gave all, and never forget their families who shared these firefighters with us."
Lance Claggett, chaplain of the Hopkinton Fire Department, unveiled the tablet bearing the names of Schaefer and Clark.
"May we be reminded that the line between selfless service and paying ultimate sacrifice is both fine and uncertain," Claggett said.
Schaefer was the first full-time chief in the history of the volunteer Hopkinton Fire Department, taking the post after convincing selectmen the town needed a chief who could work on fire prevention as much as fire suppression.
The 52-year-old was stricken with a heart attack while on duty supervising coverage for the Hopkinton State Fair, and died in an ambulance en route to Concord Hospital.
A 32-year veteran of the department, Shaefer enlisted as a volunteer call firefighter and rose through the ranks. His daughter eventually joined him in the department.
"He led the Hopkinton Fire Department with pride, along with his dedication to ensuring the best for the public who lived here or visited the town; to ensure that they had the safest environment possible."
Clark was a Bedford fire lieutenant who died suddenly at home last April. The 56-year-old fire lieutenant was known to be in good physical shape, and would frequently jog from his home in Goffstown to work in Bedford.
Known by fellow firefighters as a "no-drama guy," Clark taught classes to firefighters and emergency medical technicians.
Much of his off-duty time was spent painting watercolors and writing poetry.
"Many of us did not know that side of him," Barthelmes said. "His personality and dedication to public service are reflected in the beauty of his artwork and poetic writings."
One of Clark's poems was read by Bedford firefighter Jeff Humphrey at the ceremony. The poem "They Count on You" is in the voice of a veteran fire lieutenant, recalling the first lessons that he had taught to a group of firefighters who were later killed in the line of duty.
The lesson was that the young, the old and the disabled must count on firefighters.
"They count on you, they count on that," Clark wrote. "How could he know it would end this way ... They died like heroes later that year, with those words still echoing in their ears."