While the boy is off camping and the girl is touring Europe, dad is stuck here in the city doing what dad usually does… work. Today my station held a plaque dedication for FF. Elmer Clothier who died in the line of duty 40 years ago. His life and service to our department and city was immortalized today with the dedication of a brass plaque in his memory at our station.
The department and our union with the support of local benefactors have collaborated to erect these brass plaques all around the city in memory of the hundreds of police officers and firefighters who have made the ultimate sacrifice. The families of these men, many long since departed are tracked down and where possible brought to the ceremony to let them be part of the memorial service and to let them know that we still honor their memory and sacrifice. Few people will ever know what the line of duty loss of a loved one is all about. In most cases it is devastating to a family and once the media coverage and ceremonies fade, years of hardship often follow.
For the station captain this is a pretty big event and the source of more than one sleepless night and quite a few frayed nerves. This is a media event and the departments command staff is usually in attendance. The station, apparatus and members are turned out spit and polish. As usual the members of my company and station did a spectacular job at setting up and preparing for the ceremony. I can’t say enough about them except that they make it easy to be the boss. After the ceremony we host a luncheon for all present. The families are always appreciative of our efforts and thankful for the homage paid to the memory of their loved one.
For the Clothier family tragedy was ever-present. While alive FF. Clothier had to deal with the kidnapping and murder of his teenage daughter. That in itself is enough to crush any father. In the busy years of the late 1960’s for a firefighter in Philadelphia it was non stop firefighting. The loss of his daughter must have weighed heavy on him. On July 20, 1968 he suffered a heart attack while on duty and passed away. His daughters murder remained unsolved for many years until recently. As a cold case the file was recently re-opened when local police were able to conclude the people responsible fot the crime were identified but deceased. There is little comfort in that. But hopefully the Clothier family will take some comfort in the knowledge that Elmer’s memory will be preserved for many more generations of firefighters who walk through the doors at E-7.