Honoring fallen heroes
A paper trail memorializing Superior firefighters who died in the line of duty will be etched in stone this fall. After more than a decade of digging through old newspapers and log books, firefighters have teamed with community members to make the monument a reality.
“These are the everyday heroes who don’t get the recognition they deserve,” said Jordan Appicelli, a member of the Superior/Douglas County Leadership group that worked on the memorial. “We hear about fires engulfing houses or businesses and accidents on the streets in our city, but we don’t hear about those who are risking their lives to put the fire out, get people out of the building or make sure traffic is detoured so the accident site is safe to work in. This memorial is just one way to bring light to these individuals who do so much that we tend to overlook in our daily lives.”
A memorial to Superior Police officers who died in the line of duty was dedicated in 1993. That prompted Superior firefighters to consider one of their own. But no list of firefighters who died in the line of duty had ever been compiled.
“If they wrote it down, we never found it,” said Capt. Lindzi Campbell. Over the last 10 years, Capt. David Johnson has been researching historical material to gather those names. To date, he has found five. Leo McCabe died of injuries sustained when the engine truck he was riding on sideswiped a street car in 1926. Also in 1926, Joseph McGillis died of injuries sustained when he fell beneath the wheels of a 10-ton hook and ladder truck while answering a fire call. In 1939, Charles Hughes died of injuries sustained when he and three other firefighters climbed to a 14-foot ledge in an attempt to work a hose into the burning Stokely Brothers Canning Company. The wall collapsed and he was buried in a shower of red-hot bricks. Louis Sylvester suffered a heart attack while returning from a fire call in 1949. One year later, Albert Delcourt collapsed from a heart attack while ascending a ladder to fight an attic fire.
Another two names, Charles Myers and Marshall Malvin, remain question marks.
Campbell and Johnson are reaching out to families of these fallen men and anyone who may hold the key to adding more names.
“We want to try to get more, better information,” Campbell said.
“There’s no list,” Johnson said. “Nobody passed on information like, ‘Oh, here’s our list of guys.’ It’s just stuff I found digging” through record books and daily newspapers.
If you have a new name to offer, firefighters want to hear from you.
“We don’t want to miss somebody,” Johnson said.
Johnson was given Myers’ name as a line-of-duty death, for example, but has only sketchy information about him — an old picture and a 1892 newspaper clipping of Superior’s first paid crew that may or may not be the same man. Community information could help determine if Myers should be listed on the memorial.
At the same time, they are collecting family stories.
“I would love to contact family members of these deceased persons,” Johnson said. “It changed their entire family’s life. Their whole family tree changed at one point and time because of this.”
Funds for the Heroes Memorial Fund came from a state firefighter convention that was held in Superior about four years ago and additional dollars secured by Johnson. When Campbell joined the Superior-Douglas County Leadership group this fall, she offered the memorial as a possible project. Five community members were quick to sign on.
“Out of all the projects, this one connected with me as my dad is a volunteer firefighter in my hometown of Barnum,” Appicelli said. She had known about the police memorial, but didn’t realize there was no such monument for firefighters. “I wanted to be a part of the team that made it happen for those families who lost loved ones risking their lives for others.”
Names of fallen firefighters and a quote by Joseph Campbell, “A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself” will be etched in glass connected to the granite monument. A bronze statue atop the slab will feature empty firefighter gear. Campbell constructed the collection of gear and tweaked it based on team and artist comments. Citizens also weighed in on what color granite slab to use. They brought a new view to the memorial.
“It’s been really a great group to work with. “Six perspectives are better than one perspective. I think it’s been pretty helpful,” Campbell said.
“We’ve never been known for our fashion sense,” Johnson said.
The memorial will be placed in the Government Center Atrium across from the Superior Police Memorial. It will be dedicated at noon Sept. 11 and everyone is invited to attend. Anyone with information on the fallen firefighters or possible names to add can contact Johnson at 715-394-0227 or firstname.lastname@example.org.