Friday, December 6, 2013
SOUTH PORTLAND - Harry Earl Harmon's granddaughters never knew him, but they are keenly aware of how his death after fighting a Portland fire 100 years ago impacted their family.
Firefighters stand near a monument to fallen firefighters at Forest City Cemetery in South Portland during the annual Memorial Sunday Service to honor firefighters who lost their lives in service.
Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer
"My dad was only 14 and had to support the family shoveling coal for the railroad," said Donna Lorfano of Scarborough.
Lorfano's grandfather died in 1913 of pneumonia, the result of smoke inhalation from the fire.
Harmon was one of 20 fallen Portland firefighters who, along with two from South Portland, were honored Sunday at Forest City Cemetery during a service for firefighters killed in the line of duty.
The annual tribute, which began in 1892, is organized by the Portland and South Portland fire departments and the Portland Veteran Firemen's Association.
About 40 people watched the bagpipe procession to the firefighters' gravesite memorial, erected 100 years ago.
"It is bittersweet. It brings back a lot of memories," said Sandra Cowan Jackson of Yarmouth, whose family filled an entire row of seats.
Her first husband, Frank Cowan, a firefighter for Portland's Ladder 1, suffered a heart attack while fighting a fire at a Congress Street bistro and died from complications several months later in 1993, just a few months away from retirement.
South Portland Fire Chief Kevin Guimond called the ceremony a "unique, private and subtle recognition."
"We are not marching down Congress Street," he said.
Guimond asked the younger members of his department to continue the yearly tradition.
"It is important to come here once a year for 30 minutes," he said.
South Portland Fire Department Chaplain Howard Sterling said firefighters look out for each other, even after death. He cited the efforts of South Portland firefighter Richard Foley, who acts as the department's historian.
Foley discovered there was no permanent marker at the Forest City Cemetery gravesite of firefighter Frank McPherson, who died in the 1950s. Foley launched a successful effort to install a gravestone earlier this year.
"Firefighters never forget," Sterling said.
Staff Writer Beth Quimby can be contacted at 791-6363 or at:
This story was updated at 2:35 p.m. Oct. 8 to correct the spelling of Donna Lorfano's surname.