SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

October 3, 2013

A grand night for PFD

BY ALAN BURKE
STAFF WRITER

---- — PEABODY — It’s a sight organizer Alison Reichert describes as “awesome” and “moving”: Peabody firefighters and their ladies, the men in dress uniforms, the women in gowns, performing the Grand March at the Peabody Firefighters Ball.

The ball is a tradition that goes back more than a century, to April 1893. It was stopped in the 1990s, said Reichert, fiancee of a retired firefighter. But it was revived in 2010 and will be continued this year in memory of colleague James Rice, who died battling a blaze on Hancock Street in December 2011. Rice attended the 2010 affair.

”It’s the first ball where he is not going to be there,” Reichert said. “And we want to honor him. We think it’s a good thing to do for him and his family.” Some money raised via the ball, scheduled for 7 p.m. on Oct. 18 at Spinelli’s on Route 1, goes to the James Rice Memorial Fund.

Attendance isn’t open to the general public; it’s limited to those in public service, firefighters, police and ambulance workers. But the public is invited to make donations to the Memorial Fund for Rice, who was 42 and an 11-year department veteran. He left behind a wife and three children.

”People are very excited,” said Reichert, who hopes to see the ball continued biennially.

”These past couple of years were very difficult for our firefighters,” adds Cathie Daly, another organizer, in a press release. “We want to bring something positive after such a tragedy.”

The ball is sponsored by donations from the community. Information is available at 978-815-1457.

Don’t I know you?

The quick capture of the woman who police say robbed Eastern Bank last month was explained by Deputy Chief Marty Cohan. After the woman’s photo was widely circulated, including in The Salem News, a tip came from a relative who recognized the suspect. And why would a relative turn in a member of their own family? Because, Cohan said, by the time such people are driven to rob banks they’ve often already robbed all their relatives.

Chief to go downhill

His escape has been delayed, at least until Nov. 1, but police Chief Robert Champagne, who had planned to leave office last June, has no complaints. He agreed to stay while Mayor Ted Bettencourt made a move to take the chief’s position out of Civil Service, which required a vote by the Legislature. Now, the mayor seeks an interim chief. The final search for a permanent replacement begins after one is signed.

Champagne says his prolonged service hasn’t upset any plans. Retirement finally will coincide with the coming of winter and his No. 1 priority — hitting the ski slopes.

“If my knees can handle it,” he said.

That’s entertainment

City Councilor Arthur Athas seemed taken aback when the request by Gallo Nero on Main Street for an entertainment license was less than expansive, including only a CD player, a TV and a radio. “When we think of an entertainment license, we think of rock ‘n’ roll bands and belly dancers, he said, shaking his head.

Downton Peabody

If your great-grandma Bridey was “in service” to a family of brahmins — this is the talk for you. The Peabody Historical Society is welcoming Jennifer Pustz of Historic New England to present her lecture “History of Domestic Servants in New England.” It’s slated for the Smith Barn, Felton Street, on Oct. 16., at 1 p.m. in the afternoon. Admission is $5.

Member Ann Birkner was drawn to Pustz’s topic after musing on the society’s Gideon Foster House where the top floor housed the servants.

“I can imagine how hot it would be in the summer. ... I’m sure their life was not easy.” Birkner draws a connection between that experience and the life reflected on the British TV program “Downton Abbey.”

Muriel Hoffhacker contributed to this story.