NEW LONDON Four members of the New London Fire Department Memorial Committee recently met at Grove Street Cemetery and placed the first group of markers on the graves of deceased firefighters.
The project began a few months ago when Gayle Sutherland Ashbaker suggested the project to the department. Her father, Ira Sutherland, a well-known businessman in the community for many years, was a volunteer on the department for 38 years and served as assistant chief under Chief Al Walters.
A committee of Roger Harner, Dean Bailey, Jason Anderson and Dan Whitaker was formed to work on the project and through several fundraising projects came up with more than $1,000, which was enough to purchase 25 of the markers with brass poles and flags.
The committee also wrote guidelines for who was eligible to have these markers placed on their graves.
First of all, since records before 1950 were scarce or non-existent, they concentrated on deceased firefighters who served after that year.
In addition, the firefighter had to have either served as an officer with the New London Department, served 10 or more years with the department, or was an active member of the department at the time of his death (either in or out of the line of duty).
The first nine markers are now on the graves of Sutherland, Walters, Bob Zimmerman, Dick Smith, Oren (Babe) Barker, Otis Emch, George Parks, Lawrence Byrley and Roy Bruce.
The committee is now seeking information on any firefighter who would fit the above guidelines and whose family would like to have him remembered with a marker. Contact any member of the committee or call (419) 929-0022 and leave a message.
Anyone who knows of a firefighter who does not meet the criteria, but who wants to purchase a marker, may do so through the department at a cost of about $40.