One of Cloverdale’s own is in Ottawa this weekend at a national memorial commemorating firefighters who have lost their lives in the line of duty.
Cindy O’Brien Hugh and her sister Kerri are among the relatives who are gathering alongside fire services personnel for the Sept. 9 memorial ceremony at the Canadian Firefighters Memorial.
The memorial, designed by Douglas Coupland, is being officially dedicated by Governor General David Johnston at the ceremony, which will pay tribute to the more than 1,100 Canadian firefighters who have lost their lives while on the job.
The ceremony is hosted by the Canadian Fallen Firefighters Foundation, or CFFF.
On August 12, 1974, Cloverdale resident Larry O’Brien was the driver and sole occupant of a pumper truck that skidded on a wet road on the way to a fire, landing in a deep ditch. He died at the scene.
He was survived by his wife Arlie, and two daughters, Kerri and Cindy, who was a Grade 10 student at Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary at the time.
The loss was devastating, says Cindy’s husband, Rick Hugh.
Cloverdale was still very much a small town in the mid-1970s. Everyone knew everyone else.
The loss touched the entire community.
The sound of the fire alarm at Hall #8 – an air raid siren perched in the hose tower of the fire hall – could be heard throughout Cloverdale and beyond.
When the alarm was raised, volunteers hurried from their jobs and families, converging at the hall.
O’Brien was captain of Hall #8 in Cloverdale at the time of his death. He was just 44 years old.
Larry O’Brien followed his father, Bill O’Brien, a 20-year veteran and proprietor of O’Brien’s Super Service gas station, into the Cloverdale Volunteer Fire Brigade, in the early 1950s.
“Larry served proudly and passionately for 23 years,” says a biography included on the CFFF’s website.