This week our town lost a true Legend. I am honored to share him with you.
In 1965 Ferdinand “Freddie” Alvezi was appointed as the first Full-time Fire Chief of Sandwich. His department consisted solely of volunteers (call fire fighters), who would leave whatever they were doing whenever Sandwich needed them. In 1971 the Chief hired seven men, who would become first professional Sandwich Fire Department.
Born and raised in Sandwich, “Freddie” and his bride, Kay, raised three daughters (Carol, Kathy and Sharon) alongside their young department. The Chief continued the Junior Auxiliary, allowing high school student to shadow their heroes and one day join their ranks. Volunteers started as young as 16. Trained by the Chief and his men to be safe and to understand what it meant to belong to the Fire Department Brotherhood. As he left his family with dinner on the table, the Chief would pass his young firefighters riding their bikes to the Station once the horn went off. Although they no longer ride their bikes to the Station, some of these men still serve Sandwich today.
Under the Chief’s leadership, his men fought the fires of “Torrid Tuesday”, the Sandy’s Restaurant Fire, The Otis Brush Fire of 1965 that “jumped” Route 6 and threatened Sandwich village and the Great Brush fire of 1985. Chief Alvezi began the town’s emergency medical service with the Town’s first paramedic and emergency medical technicians.
It is rumored that the Otis Brush Fire of 1965 was the Chief’s first day on the job. His former volunteer chief, Bernie Jones, rode alongside him.
The Fire Department was more than just a job to the Chief. It was also formed the Glum Landscaping Co. Brenda Lehmann remembers her father (former Volunteer Fire Chief Jones), the Chief and fire fighter dads playing hide & seek with their children in the dunes of Town Neck as the “family” gathered for summer cookouts. Fire Fighter Michael Harrington remembers visiting his father, Vinnie, back when firefighter kids were allowed sleepovers at Headquarters. By instilling a responsibility of the fire fighter family Chief Alvezi saw his men (and their children) move through the ranks of the department from fire fighters to future Chiefs.
In 1983 the Chief’s boys were involved in a devastating accident. The rescue they were working in was in a tragic accident, leaving one of his men out of work for months. The Chief never forgot a fire fighter or their family. Whether that man was on duty, off duty, out on a devastating injury or in crisis, the Chief always “had our back”. He showed the men in his ranks the responsibility and honor in belonging to the SFD. The injured fireman returned to the ranks and to this day remembers the feeling of security knowing the Chief was there for him in his time of need. Fast forward to more recent years as the Chief’s health was compromised. Whenever the Chief needed his men every one of them answered the call.
Thanks to the Chief, Sandwich Fire has a rich history of fire fighter families. Current firefighters can link their hiring to “the Legend”: Captain Robert Black and his son Rory, Fire Fighter Bobby ‘Jittery’ George and his sons Christopher and Patrick, Keith Lehmann (ret) and his son-in-law Nick Souke, Fire Fighter brothers Scott and David Ames. Retired Fire Captain Barry Hillman recalls the Chief as the first man out the door and the last man to leave the station. Captain Hillman also recalls the time the Chief woke him and Lieutenant Beauchemin by lighting fire works off under their bunks.
They never overslept again.
Not including his time spent on the volunteer call department, Chief Alvezi dedicated 25 years to Sandwich as our Chief. Yet his legacy lives on in the men he mentored and their grandchildren that serve the Town today. Thank you, Chief for demonstrating how to lead by example and giving the Sandwich Fire Department its start…and its future.
Chief Alvezi was predeceased by his firefighters: Gordon “Wally” Wallace, Thomas “Tom” Manley, Walter Cahoon, James Silva, David “Bolesy” Boles and Vincent “Vinnie” Harrington.
Sandwich Fire Fighters Local 2196 knows that the Legend can never be replaced, but he will always be remembered.