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Resident spearheads effort to erect signs honoring Chief Leahy

Date: 6/4/2012

June 4, 2012

By Chris Maza

EAST LONGMEADOW — Leahy Field will soon have signs to commemorate the town's late Fire Chief Edward Leahy after whom it is named.

East Longmeadow resident and Little League coach Mark Giannini as well as Ellen Leahy O'Brien and William Leahy, members of Leahy's family, met with the Board of Selectmen on May 29 to discuss the placement of the signs, which have already been designed.

"We actually started almost a year ago and the idea actually originally came from [the Parks and Recreation Department] to make some signs so visiting teams knew where they were going," Giannini, a member of the Springfield Fire Department, said. "Once I got going with it, I found out that [Leahy] was a chief who passed away in the line of duty. Being that I am a firefighter, I kind of rolled with the idea from there."

Leahy passed away of a heart attack while on the scene of a fire after serving two years as chief from 1966 to 1968. He remains the only town safety officer to die in the line of duty.

In 1968, the East Longmeadow Recreation Association and East Longmeadow Little League elected to rename the league the Edward M. Leahy Little League in tribute to him.

Giannini said he felt the signs were a fitting acknowledgement and also a way for town residents to better understand the origins of the name associated with the league and the fields.

"I've been in town for 14 years and I didn't know, until I started doing all this legwork on this project, who he was," he said. "So I think to know a guy, a hero in our town, to see a face [on the sign] and know what he did is important."

Leahy O'Brien explained the family assisted in the project by providing pictures and added that the design of the sign mirrors that of those on the Red Stone Rail Trail.

The selectmen praised the effort and unanimously voted to approve the placement of the signs, pending a Dig Safe study by the Department of Public Works to ensure that the proposed areas for placement of the sign posts were safe.

"I think it's a great idea. Mr. Leahy gave his life to the town as our fire chief and it's good that we can remind people on a yearly basis, especially those coming to the town, what his life meant to this community," Selectman James Driscoll, who was participating remotely via telephone, said. "I appreciate [Giannini] taking initiative and working with the Leahy family, many of whom still live in town."

Giannini also extended an invitation to the Board of Selectmen and all town officials to attend the June 23 Little League All-Star Game, which will be hosted by East Longmeadow "for the first time in a long time." At the game, there will be a re-dedication of the field.

"The East Longmeadow Fire Chief says he is in full support and wants to be there that day for the re-dedication," he said.

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