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Story By John Murray

Under a bright sun and crisp blue sky, hundreds of people gathered on the plaza in front of City Hall on May 17th for the annual memorial service to honor deceased members of the Waterbury police and fire departments.

The event began with a short parade up Field Street led by the Connecticut Firefighters Pipes and Drums who were closely followed by members of the Waterbury Police Department and members of the Waterbury Fire Department.

Connecticut Firefighters Pipes and Drums led the parade up Field Street.

Police Chief Fred Spagnolo said the annual event is planned around National Police Week in Washington D.C. and stressed the importance of “acknowledging those who have given up the ultimate sacrifice and protecting our community.”

Police Chief Fred Spagnolo led his officers up Field Street.

Spagnolo looked out over the crowd and recognized the families of those members that have gone before us.

“Thank you for sharing your time with us today,” Spagnolo said. “Your loved ones will always be in our hearts. Their sacrifice was not in vain. We remember each and every day, what they did to serve their community and what they sacrificed to keep this a better and a safer place. And we will never forget that.”

Waterbury Fire Chief Terrence Ballou spoke about the powerful bond between the police and fire departments.

“When we respond we often respond together as public safety agencies,” he said. “And when I see an attack on one agency, I take it as an attack on the other agency. We rely on the police department. They are they have our backs and hopefully they think we have theirs.”

Fire Chief Terrence Ballou leads his firefighters towards City Hall plaza.

Ballou said the fire department has strong support from Waterbury citizens. “We’re here to protect, we are the public safety component,” Ballou said. “We are not the problem or the solution. We’re not the victim, we’re the victim advocate.”

Waterbury Mayor Neil O’Leary has spent 42 years as a public servant in the city, 30 as a patrolman, detective and police chief, and 12 as the longest continuous serving mayor in Waterbury history.

“This is always a solemn event, and it brings back memories every time I look into the faces of Helen Williams and Sue Hanley and all the police officers’ families who are here and of course firefighters’ families as well.”

Waterbury Mayor Neil O’Leary

O’Leary thanked firefighters for their extraordinary service during the COVID pandemic when they administered vaccination shots to the public.

“We called upon them to help us out and they did 24/7 for weeks and months,” O’Leary said. “Waterbury is grateful that they volunteered on top of their regular duty to help us during the pandemic.”

O’Leary also addressed the stress and strain on law enforcement the past two years that included the pandemic and America’s reckoning with race after George Floyd was murdered in May 202.

“I am not in any way shape or form condoning the actions of the officer responsible for the death of George Floyd,” O’Leary said. “I think all of us recognize and understand that that was an outrageous act. However, having said that, the public opinion of law enforcement really broke all of our hearts, especially in larger cities.”

Waterbury had its own protests that upended the city for a day

“We did have one incident where demonstrators decided it was their responsibility to shut down I-84 and block all the traffic,” O’Leary said. “But I was relieved to find out that the vast majority of those individuals that were responsible for those acts were not even from Waterbury. Go figure.”

The keynote speaker at the memorial service was Connecticut Commissioner of Public Safety, James Rovella.

Waterbury firefighter Reynaldo Padilla is reflected in the police and fire monument as Commissioner James Rovella addressed the crowd.

“These jobs call for selfless abandonment for the good of others,” Rovella said. “We ask you to run towards danger, to run towards gunshots and run into the smoke and the flames. We ask you to be calm under pressure. We ask you to be superheroes.”

Waterbury Firefighters Who Have Passed Since The Last Memorial

Fire driver John P. Mullhall, Captain Gerald Loeber, B.C. August V. Deimantas, Captain Ronald N. Grenier, Firefighter Peter W. Duglenski, Firefighter William L. McCarthy, Captain Thomas J. Kenney, Firefighter Gregory M. Dean, Fire Driver Lawrence DeLuca, Firefighter Ralph S. Vegliante

Waterbury Police Who Have Passed Since The Last Memorial

Officer Joseph LaChance, Captain Robert Moran, Lieutenant Joseph Morgan, Deputy Chief William Covel, Detective William Howard Jones, Detective John Lawson, Detective Rebecca Wisnie, Officer Anthony Massaro, Officer Ferdinando “Fred” Pasquariello, Officer Frank Dest, Sergeant Canio Guglielmo, Captain Joseph Cass