Family of Boston fire Lt. Edward Walsh given IAFF Medal of Honor at funeral: ‘He was a firefighter’s firefighter’

The casket of the late Boston Fire Lt. Edward Walsh is brought to a Watertown church for a funeral Mass. Photo: Nicolaus Czarnecki/Metro
The casket of the late Boston Fire Lt. Edward Walsh is brought to a Watertown church for a funeral Mass. Photo: Nicolaus Czarnecki/Metro

Dozens of honor guards, hundreds of bagpipers and thousands of firefighters and first responders lined Main Street in Watertown on Wednesday to honor Boston fire Lt. Edward Walsh who was remembered as “a born leader,” brave firefighter and loving father and husband. 

With her voice full of emotion Kathy Malone said Walsh, her younger brother, was a leader who “seemed to watch over everyone.”

“He led by example in all aspects of his life,” she said in her tribute to her brother. “His actions encouraged others to do well.”

The casket carrying Walsh, a 43-year-old married father of three from West Roxbury, was brought to St. Patrick’s Parish atop Engine 33, the firetruck he worked on and rode in last week when he responded to a fire in the Back Bay that eventually took his life. Walsh’s brother, Michael, carried his helmet in front of the truck as about 10,000 first responders saluted in a moving tribute.

Standing at the front of the formation were Boston firefighters who also responded to last week’s fire that injured 13 firemen. One of them still had bandages wrapped around his head.

Mayor Marty Walsh paid tribute to Walsh and spoke during the funeral.

“As a brave and experienced firefighter, Ed Walsh was a rock supporting all of our lives whether we knew it or not,” he said. “Everyday he went to work, he put himself on the line for us. That’s why so many people are here.”

Rich Paris, the president of Local 718, the Boston firefighters union, said Walsh loved being a firefighter.

“He was a born leader who did not regard himself as a hero,” Paris said, adding that Walsh was proudest to be a husband and a father.

Walsh’s family was presented with the International Association of Fire Fighters Medal of Honor during the funeral Mass, which concluded after about two hours of remarks, songs, prayers and a traditional bell ringing ceremony signifying the end of a firefighter’s service.

Bus loads of family and friends were brought to the church, where Walsh was baptized 43 years ago.

Rows of firefighters pay their respects to Lt. Walsh. Photo: Nicolaus Czarnecki/Metro
Rows of firefighters pay their respects to Lt. Walsh. Photo: Nicolaus Czarnecki/Metro

Five buses brought relatives and friends of Lt. Edward Walsh to the Watertown church where he was baptized 43 years ago.

His wife and eldest children stood with other family members as his casket was taken off of Engine 33 and moved into the church. His nephew Robert wore a firefighter jacket and helmet.

Fire investigators still trying to determine the cause of last week’s blaze were able to find Walsh’s wedding ring at the scene. They gave it to his wife during Tuesday’s wake.

“He was a firefighter’s firefighter,” said the Rev. Joh Unni during a personable homily. “You never heard a bad word about him.”

Walsh died last week in a massive nine-alarm fire that broke out in a Back Bay brownstone. He and Firefighter Michael Kennedy became trapped in the basement of the building. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

As the service continued into the early afternoon, people lingered outside to pay their respects.

Mary Dwyer, whose son is a Boston fire lieutenant, stood outside the church to show her support for Walsh’s family because “that could be me in there.”

Capt. Scott Willis, a firefighter from Washington state, said he traveled across the nation to pay his respects at the Watertown service because, “I know they’d do it for us.”

Following the funeral Mass, a burial procession headed to a Watertown cemetery. The casket was carried by Boston Engine 33, on streets lined with at-attention firefighters.

On Tuesday, the firefighters spent hours performing a walk-by during Walsh’s wake at the church.

Kennedy, 33, of Hyde Park, will be mourned during a wake in West Roxbury later today. His funeral will take place Thursday.

Follow Michael Naughton on Twitter: @metrobosmike
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