New memorial honors Peabody’s first responders

An artist's rendering of the new Peabody Public Safety Memorial that will be officially unveiled on Oct. 14. (City of Peabody)

PEABODY — The city’s new public safety memorial overlooks Emerson Park, near where firefighter James Rice grew up and where he spent countless hours playing baseball.

Rice died in the line of duty fighting a three-alarm fire two days before Christmas in 2011. Shortly after that, Fire Captain Dale Kimball and police officer Justin Cecil proposed building a memorial to all the city’s public safety workers. On Saturday, Oct. 14, the city will officially unveil that tribute to its police, fire, and emergency personnel.

“When fire Captain Dale Kimball and police officer Justin Cecil approached me about their idea to build a police/fire memorial in Peabody, I was quick to express my support,” said Mayor Edward A. Bettencourt Jr., whose father was a long-time member of the Peabody Police Department. “Each day, we are reminded that the men and women who serve as firefighters and police officers are worthy of our great respect and everlasting gratitude. Each day, these brave public servants go about their work knowing that the next 911 call or the next fire alarm could put their own lives of the lives of their fellow officers and firefighters in peril.”

In addition to being near Rice’s boyhood home, the memorial at the corner of Perkins and Palmer streets sits symbolically halfway between the police station and fire headquarters in Ward 4.

The memorial features the bronze likeness of a police officer and firefighter standing side by side amidst a landscaped courtyard. The entrance to the site is paved with engraved bricks, many dedicated to police officers and firefighters who served the city.

“I’m so proud and so happy to have this memorial in the city, nevermind my ward,” said Ed Charest, the ward 4 City Councilor. “It’s a gorgeous memorial, and one of the most beautiful police and fire memorials in the state.”

Charest said he has been keeping an eye on the project, often stopping by to chat with the workers building the memorial.

“It really puts it into perspective for how we treat the importance of emergency services in Peabody,” Charest said.

The unveiling ceremony is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 14 at 10 a.m. Many current and former firefighters and police officers are expected to attend, and there will be a shuttle bus running from the Higgins Middle School to the site of the memorial that morning.

“Many generations of Peabody firefighters and police officers have come and gone,” said Bettencourt. “Those who served the city so well in years past have left a great and lasting legacy. The memorial will stand to honor their dedication and sacrifice and it will be a great source of pride for generations of Peabody residents.”

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