PEABODY — The city will dedicate the new athletic fields at Higgins Middle School on Sunday in memory of firefighter Jim Rice, who died in the line of duty in 2011.
The dedication is scheduled for Sunday, June 9, at 10:15 a.m. at the school, 85 Perkins St.
In a post on Facebook, Mayor Ted Bettencourt described Rice as a “dedicated husband, father, friend and firefighter” who “served the city of Peabody with distinction from March 4, 2001 – December 23, 2011.”
Rice was 42 when he died fighting a three-alarm fire at an apartment building on Hancock Street two days before Christmas in 2011. The 11-year veteran of the department posthumously received the International Association of Firefighters Medal of Valor.
In 2016, on the fifth anniversary of Rice’s death, Bettencourt announced at City Hall that the athletic fields at the new Higgins would be named in memory of Rice, who grew up playing on fields in the neighborhood. Bettencourt made the announcement following a packed memorial service at St. John the Baptist Church that included dozens of uniformed firefighters and police officers.
At the time, Bettencourt presented a rendering of the new fields to Rice’s wife, Amy.
Bettencourt was friends with Rice and grew up playing sports with him, he told the audience.
“Jim’s tragic passing touched all of us in the city,” Bettencourt said in a message. “This dedication will be a lasting tribute to his life, his family, his career as a Peabody firefighter and his legacy of courage and commitment to duty. Thousands of Peabody youth will play on the very fields where Jim played as a young boy.”
At the time of the memorial service in 2016, Amy Rice said the honor would be a significant one for their three children, Alyssa, Katelyn and Ryan, who also played sports in the city.
The ball fields were constructed on the site of the former Higgins Middle School building, which was demolished. The new school opened in 2016.
School Committee member Beverley Griffin Dunne, who co-chaired the Higgins School Building Committee, said this spring was the first season the fields could be used for play, as time was needed for the grass to take hold.
“It’s a very, very nice tribute to his family,” Dunne said of the dedication.
Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @TannerSalemNews.