SOUTHINGTON — A ceremony was held at the fire department Wednesday to commemorate the dedication of a portion of Route 120 to the town’s fallen firefighters.
“The Southington Fire Department has lost five of its members while in service to the citizens of Southington,” Battalion Chief Eric Heath said. “Memorializing them is bittersweet, as it's both right and honorable to do so, but in that we are also reminded of not only their sacrifices, but the sacrifices of their families.”
The Connecticut General Assembly passed legislation to dedicate the highway in its last session, after Heath approached lawmakers about creating an official memorial.
The three mile stretch from Route 322 to Route 10 is marked by signs recently installed by the state Department of Transportation. Heath said it is located appropriately near the highway dedicated to the fallen Southington police officer Timothy Foley.
The route is officially named the “Southington Fallen Firefighters Memorial Highway,” in honor of Lieutenant William Peck, who died in the line of duty July 16, 1977; Assistant Chief Francis Casale, who died in the line of duty Nov. 22, 1981; Firefighter Roger Sullivan, who died in the line of duty Oct. 17, 1984; Firefighter Carl Sherman, who died in the line of duty Jan. 4, 2005; and Firefighter Justin Wisniewski, who died in the line of duty on April 3, 2005.
The ceremony was attended by current and retired members of the fire department, family members and state officials. A part of the ceremony was allocated for people to express gratitude or share memories.
State lawmakers including House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, Sen. Joe Markley, R-Southington, and Reps. Rob Sampson, R-Wolcott and John Fusco, R-Southington attended the ceremony.
Aresimowicz told those gathered he could relate to the adrenaline rush and worry that comes with a family member going out to a call, as his father was a volunteer firefighter in Berlin.
“(Most people) run away from danger. Those of you that serve and are the first responders, you run to the danger and the lives you save, the property you save, the animals… we could never say thank you enough,” Aresimowicz said.
Justin Wisniewski’s older brother, Captain Matthew Wisniewski, attended the ceremony. Wisniewski said he and his brother both joined the department when they turned 18.
Justin Wisniewski died in the line of duty in 2005, at the age of 18. His family began a charity motorcycle ride and scholarship fund in honor of him. The charity page describes Justin Wisniewski as “considerate, inquisitive, and fun loving.” He was a full-time college student, studying to be a child psychiatrist and volunteered at a local church and with the Lions Club, among other things.
“(The highway) is going to be a nice dedication to just the fire service in general, but then on a personal note, it’s going to be just nice to, to just see something,” Matthew Wisniewski said at the ceremony.