Editor’s note: The Salem News reported last Friday that the Fire Department fired former Lt. John O’Leary based on a city investigation that concluded he had misappropriated more than $25,000 in union charitable funds.
A report by the city cited $1,700 in withdrawals by O’Leary for the “William Hudson Fund,” named for a fire captain who died in 2005. The report stated that “neither the credit union (which handled the Hudson fund) nor Mrs. Hudson, in her sworn affidavit, has accounted for these donations.”
O’Leary’s attorney said funds were used in Capt. Hudson’s final days to build a beach in his basement and to fly him to Colorado as a “last wish.”
“The money was to go for William Hudson himself while he was alive,” the attorney said. “If Mrs. Hudson was confused and thought these were contributions made to a fund she set up ... she’d be mistaken.”
In response, Liz Hudson, the widow of Capt. Hudson, issued the following statement:
The passing of Bill Hudson was sad and tragic for both Bill’s family and friends. Bill’s love for Salem Fire Department and his brother and sister firefighters were not surpassed by anything. Firefighter families understand the sacrifices made by each man and woman on the department and the devotion shown to each other on and off duty. Each firefighter is willing to lay down their lives for not only each other, but the community at large. They are fiercely loyal not only to each other but to each other’s family
The fire department supported us during Bill’s illness and passing. I would like to express the family’s gratitude for granting Bill’s last wish. Bill loved the beach and wanted to be able to enjoy the beach. It was the middle of winter and Bill was far too ill to travel.
Friends, family and the brotherhood were feeling hopeless. I came up with the idea to build a beach, I purchased a beach mural, blue carpet, bamboo for a walkway, wallpaper, a day bed and a shelf, and friends brought over beach knickknacks and shells. I needed the brotherhood’s help, and the firemen and women came without questions, showing up with sand, heat lamps, and all the material needed to put the beach together. The fire department is a talented group of people. They had even had a person who could cut my carpet into waves, and install heat lamps. Bill was cold all the time. They spent the whole day building, installing and fixing things around the house. It was the first time in a long time I felt surround and safe with the help of the fire department. John gave me several hundred dollars to help with expenses. I understood this to be donations made by Bill’s coworkers. The missing money in question was from two years after Bill had passed away. It is our hope that this unfortunate event will not take away the memory of the building of the beach. Our family was grateful. The beach mural with Bill’s honors remain as a reminder of the kindness support of the fire department.
The only other wish Bill had was to be buried with full honors. It truly was important for him to be with his brothers and sisters as he moved from our world to the next. The outpouring of support from the department was incredible. Bill’s last wish was not to go to Colorado; he never went or wanted to as he died, and his true last wish was not to be buried on Super Bowl Sunday. Even at the end he was thinking of his brothers and friends.
The fire department supported us in one last way. The department flew the children and me and Bill’s mom to Colorado for the firefighter’s memorial with escorts. This was a truly moving event that will remain with our family forever. My understanding, this was paid for by the firefighters from a separate fund. The support and friendship of the fire department has helped us live through the saddest moments of our lives. We are forever grateful to the Salem Fire Department. Our community is lucky to have the men and women who serve on this fire department. The family wishes that all press will respect our privacy and direct any questions to the Salem Fire Department.