By Terry Brodie of The Free Press

London hasn’t lost a firefighter on duty since 1960 when Capt. David Moffit suffered a heart attack while combating a blaze.

In the last two years, Fire Chief Ray Morley said 18, firefighters in Ontario have lost their lives in the line of duty.

Almost 200 black-uniformed London firefighters and another 150 from departments in Ontario and Quebec took part in the service.

Roman’s wife Norma, distraught and wan, sobbed as she left the Donohue Funeral home, supported on both arms by family friends. Behind her, Roman’s parents who flew in Tuesday night from Labrador, clung to each other, shedding tears for their only son.

Roman’s wooden casket, draped in a Canadian flag, was raised to the top of a pumper, the same kind of fire truck that led to his death.

The firefighters assembled in front of the Central Fire Station and marched a block to five waiting buses that took them to St. John the Devine Church on Base Line Road West for mass. Behind them, seven family cars, police cars and the red fire truck filed to the church.

At the church, the firefighters lined three-deep along the road and the sidewalk, paving a route for six pallbearers and six honor guards in white gloves – special friends to Roman – who carried the casket into the brown-brick church.

Rev. Patrick Mellon, pastor of St. Justice church, and official Roman Catholic chaplain for the fire department, paid tribute to Roman and expressed sympathy for his family.

“I knew Rick. He was a football player and I often thought that a fellow like that insisted on first, second and third efforts. . . He didn’t do it for himself, he was rather a quiet person, he did it because he loved his family, the men he worked with, his neighbors,” he said.

Firefighter Paul McPherson, an honorary pallbearer and a close friend of Roman’s also paid tribute to his friend.

“Everywhere this young man tread, everyone experienced his life . . . . He reached all of us with his peace and hope for the future.”

“With his friends, Rick was always there to lend a hand and never lacking in generosity. Rick was loved by all who knew him. To know him was to love him as a husband, father, friend and fellow firefighter.”

They filed out of the church and en-route to St. Peter’s Cemetery for the burial, returned downtown to pass the fire hall for the “last alarm.”

Roman’s hat, boots and coat, symbols of his work, were draped over a chair on the sidewalk in front of the hall. Standing beside the chair were his children.

Firefighters standing behind the chair may have recalled the words of the Firemen’s Prayer, recited during the funeral service:

And if according to thy will, I have to give my life. Please bless with thy protecting hand my children and my wife.