Bench memorializing late Burrillville firefighter to be unveiled Friday

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BURRILLVILLE – It has been two years since Pascoag firefighter Lt. Richard Jenks lost his life in the line of duty.

And on Friday, Feb. 14 – the anniversary of the tragedy – his former colleagues will unveil a new memorial in the village in his honor.

Members of the Pascoag Fire Department will unveil and dedicate an inscribed granite bench at Veterans Memorial Park this week. The memorial, which will be situated across from the Main Street firehouse in Pascoag, was purchased with funds donated in Jenks’ memory just after his death.

“Donations in his memory at the time of his passing have allowed us to commission a beautiful inscribed granite bench memorializing Richard and his service to and sacrifice for our community,” said Pascoag firefighter Jason LeMaire.

Jenks, a 33 year veteran of the PFD, died at the age of 72 while fighting a chimney fire in town in February 2018. He was a veteran of the United States Air Force and served his country for 24 years in Vietnam, Thailand, Kuwait, and Southeast and Southwest Asia.

In October of 2019, his name was added to National Firefighters Memorial.  It has also been added to the Rhode Island State Firefighters Memorial, and Burrillville Firefighters Memorial Park, but those who worked with Jenks noted that there was nothing to memorialize him in the district where he served.

“We wanted to have a memorial in Pascoag, where he served his community for decades as a firefighter and an electric lineman, in the village that he called home,” said LeMaire. “Putting the memorial bench in the Veterans Memorial Park adjacent to the fire station also honors his years of service to the Air Force and the RI Air National Guard.”

Retired fire department Deputy Chief Richard Peck first conceived the idea for the memorial bench, designed by Lt. Brian Venditelli and Martin Artistic Stone, LLC out of Cranston. Martin Artistic Stone engraved the memorials at the RI Firefighters Memorial in Exeter, dedicated in October, and has also engraved the inscription on the new Jenks memorial in Pascoag.

The bench features logos of both the Pascoag Fire Department and the US Air Force. The inscription, which was thought up by Venditelli, will be kept private until Friday’s ceremony.

“I went around and looked at some other memorials for inspiration, but I was trying to capture with the words that it was a loss for the community of Pascoag and Burrillville as a whole – that this bench should serve as a reminder of what it means to serve, and that the bench was for a person who should be remembered because he dedicated his life to serving the people of the village of Pascoag right to the end,” said Venditelli.

The memorial is currently in storage, and will be temporarily returned there after the ceremony. It will be permanently installed in the park in spring, once the weather is warmer and soil conditions allow, according to LeMaire.

The public is invited to attend a short dedication ceremony, to be held beside the new memorial on Friday, Feb. 14 starting at 6 p.m. A reception with refreshments will be held in the Fagan Memorial Auditorium on the second floor of the fire station following the dedication.

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