PEABODY — December 23, 2011, was a “whirlwind” — a “kick in the gut” to everyone, the Rev. Chris Foustoukos recalled.
The city lost a firefighter in the line of duty that day. Foustoukos, who responded to the crisis, told Jim Rice’s widow, Amy, and his fellow Peabody firefighters to call him if they ever needed anything.
Now they’ve asked him to be the fire department’s first chaplain.
Foustoukos, the pastor of St. Vasilios Greek Orthodox Church, will be sworn in this month. He said he was honored and “stunned” at the opportunity.
The position is voluntary, but he will be on call to respond to major incidents or any situation where a chaplain’s presence or counseling might be useful. That could be a “lifeline” at times for a firefighter or a victim, he said, or he might simply be a person to talk to.
Two-and-a-half years ago, Foustoukos got a call at home in Lynnfield from another local chaplain and quickly agreed to head to Salem Hospital. Rice was a parishioner at St. Vasilios. Foustoukos met with the family and with firefighters and their wives in the hours and days that followed. He officiated at Rice’s funeral and later at other services with the department.
“If you need anything today, a year from now or 10 years from now, call me,” Foustoukos told Amy Rice. He extended the same offer to firefighters and has stopped in often at the firehouses to see how they’re doing. It was with a “mixture of pride and awe” that he witnessed their close camaraderie during those days, he said.
Fire Chief Steven Pasdon said he had considered having a chaplain for several years, but it wasn’t until tragedy struck that the need for a chaplain became evident. Foustoukos was a natural choice — a “perfect fit,” Pasdon said.