On September 11, 2002, the Chicago Fire Department Fallen Firefighter/Paramedic Memorial Park was dedicated. The park is located at 2300 South Ft. Dearborn Drive. It is the land adjacent to McCormick Place Lakeside Center on Chicago’s beautiful lakefront.
The park is a meaningful and lasting tribute to our loved ones who made the supreme sacrifice. The park contains significant granite entrance pieces at both the north and south approaches on the walking path. The focal point is a teardrop shaped memorial plaza that contains paver bricks engraved with the names of the fallen, dating back to 1857. Also, in the plaza is a bell shaped granite memorial that reads;
Dedicated To The
of the Chicago Fire Department
Fallen Firefighters and Paramedics
This 11th Day of September 2002
Chicago Fire Department
Gold Badge Society
Mayor Richard M. Daley Commissioner James T. Joyce
Maurice Moore Memorials created the granite commemorative pieces. Also within the plaza are a bronze bell, helmet and boots. The bronze pieces were created by CFD FF/PM John Alaniz. Across the walking path is a 9/11 memorial tree that was donated by Clauss Brothers, Inc.; Natalie Gongaware from Clauss Brothers is the landscape artist that designed the park. Throughout the park there are several council rings. The council rings are a circular grouping of limestone boulders fashioned after a Native American tradition. The council rings were present before our development of the site. The GBS park committee was comprised of Eileen Coglianese, Chair, Vicki Waliczek, Co-chair, Delores, Gina, John and Margie King, and Allyson Coglianese.
Aside from the initial request to the Park District and the choice of the park site, the park was created in six months. Fundraising efforts began April 11, 2002, with a formal affair in Sears Tower, directed by Judy Fisher, and concluded with a backyard barbeque hosted by CFD Capt Sean O’Driscoll. During the Sears Tower cocktail party, retired CFD Bill Kugelman and a host of CFD volunteers were conducting a boot drive at the Paul McCartney concert. The effort included the sale of t-shirts and posters featuring a painting created by Aurora FD Lt. Mark Robinson. CFD firehouses were visited by Eileen Coglianese and Vicki Waliczek in order to both inform personnel about the park and present the rank and file with the opportunity to participate and contribute. Of the 101 firehouses in Chicago, 85% were visited on all 3 shifts, 95% on 2 shifts, and all firehouses on at least 1 shift.
The rank and file did participate and they did contribute. They provided a variety of fundraising efforts that included a bowling tournament, hosted by CFD FF Tom Taff and the Bucks for Burn Camp Committee, a CFD vs. CPD golf tournament, and a CFD vs. CPD baseball game directed by CFD Lt. Dan Sheahan. While fundraising for FDNY families, FF Rich Pinskey and Lt. Kenny Soo managed to also raise funds on our behalf. FF Dave Bernicki and the first platoon from E129, T50, and A30 hosted a fundraiser at Cullinan’s. Lt. Tom Cira sold t-shirts at Midway Airport. During this time anyone who approached Commissioner Joyce with a fundraising suggestion was directed to the park committee. The fundraising became all consuming, but was very successful.
Our GBS membership met the challenge as well. We received many significant financial contributions and many brought large groups of family members to work and support the numerous fundraisers. Members of the O’Boyle family were significant participants. Joanne Vander Ploeg and Mary Cae Reidy did all of the firehouse thank you notes as well as helped with folding the many t-shirts.
Inspired by CFD FF Michael De Bella, we organized two volunteer days at the park site when rank and file, GBS members, friends and family, were able to clean and prepare the site on one day and then actually do planting on another. This effort saved the park fund a significant amount of money. It also served to provide an opportunity to nurture the CFD family bond by working together and creating a common goal.
Throughout the spring and summer the memorial park effort drew a lot of media attention. Due to this attention many descendants of CFD duty death firefighters and paramedics became aware of the GBS. We were contacted by descendants of firefighters from as far back as the 1800’s; some of these family members have now joined the GBS.
At the onset of the project, both Mayor Daley and Commissioner Joyce were approached and asked if they did not agree that since 9/11/02 was being designated as a day to both honor those who died at the World Trade Center, but all firefighters and paramedics, did not those members of the Chicago Fire Department that had died in the line of duty deserve to be honored as well? They both immediately agreed. So the date was set. In order to incorporate a tribute to the sacrifice made by the FDNY, a 9/11 memorial tree is a significant aspect of the park.
Our reward for these efforts was a beautiful day for the dedication. Led by Father Thomas Mulcrone, CFD clergy Rabbi Moshe Wolf, Reverend Landis McAlpin and Father John McNalis, the park was blessed. Musical tributes were provided by both our ever present supporters, The Pipes and Drums of the Emerald Society and the newly created CFD Family Five. The CFD Family Five consisted of CFD family members including Anne McNamee, Bernadette Santiago, Eng. Thomas Dempsey, Lt. Lee Hooper and Eng. Robert J. Love III. The Fam Five was created for the sole purpose of the dedication.
We were able to include in the ceremony many duty death family members that were also current CFD firefighters and paramedics. FF Richard Franzen carried the CFD Memorial Flag. Rel. Lt. Edward Waliczek rang the memorial bell. As part of the 9/11 memorial tree ceremonial planting by Mayor Daley, Commissioner Joyce, Park Supt. David Doig, and Eileen Coglianese, members of the CFD who are related to CFD duty death firefighters created an honor guard path to the tree.
With the Memorial Park effort we were able to present ourselves to the CFD as an organization that is truly part of the Family and that we are willing to work hard for that honor. We learned just how generous and willing a family can be.