SPRINGFIELD, Mass (WGGB) — Good things come to those who wait.
Even if the late Bernard Caffrey, a Springfield firefighter who died in the line of duty 53 years ago, had to wait until Wednesday for a long overdue honor.
Firefighter Caffrey was assigned to the old Oakland Street station in Forest Park. His service to the citizens of Springfield had been overlooked for decades. Today thanks to some good detective work by his granddaughter Lea, B.J. Caffrey’s name is now etched in historical stone.
“Long time coming, long time coming,” said Lea Caffrey-Fiega. “Blessed, blessed.”
It was a solemn, and at the same time joyful day for members of Bernard Caffrey’s extended family, and for his fellow Springfield firefighters.
After exhaustive research and legwork, his granddaughter was successful in getting her grandfathers name on the Springfield Firefighters Memorial.
“Finding out that the Station 3 was closing and going to visit it the day before it closed,” said Lea. “To telling the story to the fire fighters that were there. Then to have them listen to the story and get so emotional about it. And to have them crawl up to the rafters and pull the records out, and pull the year that my grandfather died.”
And the story is right there in the record books. On August 23, 1953, Bernard Caffrey signed into work at the Oakland Street fire station at 7:55am. After working a fire that day, Caffrey was signed out at 5:25pm in severe pain and taken to the hospital. Fourteen days later on September 6th, the District Fire Chief notified his fellow firefighters that B. J. Caffery had died.
He was officially signed out for the final time the following day, September 7, 1953.
“Somehow this event got bypassed over the years,” said Springfield Fire Commissioner Joseph Conant. “Even when the memorial was created until his granddaughter came and gave us the information that this is what happened. We followed up on it, we were able to put this ceremony together and get his name engraved on the memorial.
“The most amazing thing for me,” said Lea. “Is that a fire station that was closing took care of one of their own one more time before they, really closed the door.”
All totaled there are now 21 names of Springfield Firefighters that have died in the line of duty. The first name is Captain Sidney Bowers, dated January 6, 1906.
And the last name on the monument … Bernard Caffrey, September 6, 1953