The plaintive notes of bagpipes this morning led the funeral procession for one of the bravest of the brave, Boston fire Lt. Kevin M. Kelley, as thousands of firefighters in crisp dress blues lined the funeral route, saluting their fallen brother who died Friday when his ladder truck crashed into a building.
The Rev. Daniel Mahoney, Boston Fire department chaplain, told the packed St. Ann’s Church in Quincy in a lyrical homily that Kelley was “a hero . . . of the long blue line of the bravest of the brave.’
“Once again, the skirl of the bagpipes, once again the tears, once again another hero,” Mahoney told the congregation, including Kelley’s widow and three daughters. “How much pain and sorrow can the Kelley family endure? How much pain and sorrow can the Boston Fire Department endure? And yet we know sorrow and pain are so much a part of our earthly lives.”
Kelley, 52 and a 30-year veteran, was killed when the Ladder 26 truck he was riding in the cab of rumbled out of control, apparently from brake failure, and crashed into a Mission Hill high-rise.
Mahoney spoke of the brotherhood of firefighters.
“When we lose one of our own in the line of duty, the long line of those who mourn goes from firehouse to firehouse, coast to coast,” he said.
The somber day began when Kelly’s American-flag draped coffin was hoisted atop Engine 37 — one of the trucks from his Mission Hill firehouse on Huntington Avenue. It trailed a ceremonial Ladder “26” truck, with its tower ladder filled with flowers and decked in black bunting, for the short 150-yard trip from the Keohane Funeral Home in Quincy to St. Ann’s.
After the procession arrived at the church — amid a sea of mourners lining the street — fellow jakes from his firehouse served as pallbearers. The chosen jakes were District Chief Bernie Tully, Capt. Arthur Johnson, Capt. Chuck Papineau, Lt. Glen Campbell, Lt. John Soares, Lt. Brian Doherty, and firefighters Vernon “Tiger” Allen and Joseph Houlder. They quietly walked his casket and his Ladder 26 helmet into the packed church before the Catholic funeral Mass for the son of a Boston firefighter.
Kelley’s wife and children trailed behind the procession, in composed grief.
Kelley’s helmet was then laid on a table that rested in front of his coffin, which was shrouded in a white pall with a purple cross before the altar.
Also in attendance this morning are Gov. Deval Patrick, Treasurer Tim Cahill, Mayor Thomas M. Menino and his wife, Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley, and the Hub’s police and fire commissioners.
Earlier this morning, firefighters en route to the funeral jumped out of their cars to help extricate a man who was involved in a collision on Furnace Brook Parkway and Waban Road in Quincy. State police said the man, who was not headed to the funeral, died on impact when his pick-up truck was hit by another truck around 9 a.m.