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December 19, 2012

Fallen firefighter receives Medal of Honor

PEABODY — Fallen Peabody firefighter Jim Rice was remembered yesterday as a family man and friend who wore his uniform proudly. He collapsed and died while fighting a three-alarm fire at an apartment house on Hancock Street almost a year ago.

It was Dec. 23, two days before Christmas.

Yesterday, Rice, an 11-year veteran of the department, was awarded a posthumous Medal of Honor during the state’s annual Firefighter of the Year awards ceremony held at Mechanics Hall in Worcester. The award was accepted by Rice’s wife Amy, who wiped tears from her eyes during the presentation.

The room was silent as a bell rang out and bagpipers played “Amazing Grace” in his memory.

Amy Rice said she was honored to receive the award for her husband. Rice also left behind three children, Alyssa, 13; Katelyn, 10 and Ryan, 8.

“The community has been amazing,” she said. “Everybody has been there to support us, from the schools to the Fire Department and the Police Department. Everyone has just stepped up, and I am proud to be from such an amazing community.”

Worcester Firefighter Jon Davies, who died battling a fire at a triple-decker 15 days before Rice, was also honored with a posthumous Medal of Honor. He was a 17-year veteran of that department.

Amy Rice said she was thinking of the surviving members of the Davies family as well as her own while receiving the award from Gov. Deval Patrick and state Fire Marshal Stephen Coan.

“All the surviving members are on my mind constantly, because I know what they are going through,” she said.

Peabody fire Capt. Jay Dowling joined her on the stage during the presentation, which included an emotional video featuring clips from various firefighters talking about Rice.

“Jim was one of my closest friends,” Dowling said, noting they played Little League together growing up in Peabody. “So it was just an honor to be here to support Amy.”

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