Swampscott honors two fallen heroes

Roses are laid at the Swampscott Fire Department's fallen firefighters memorial. (Spenser Hasak)

SWAMPSCOTT — Roughly 50 residents gathered at the Fire Station Saturday morning to immortalize the memories of Capt. Mark Ryan and William Hyde Jr. — two local firefighters who died from health complications associated with their service.

As bagpiper Nate Silva played a haunting rendition of “Amazing Grace,” the crowd gathered outside the station, watching as a granite monument bearing the names of the now eight Swampscott firefighters who died in the line of duty was unveiled.

“‘There is no greater honor than to dedicate one’s life and service to others’ — that’s the inscription on that marker,” Fire Chief Graham Archer said. “These words are engraved on that monument and they are true. Each of those firefighters faced dangers seen and unseen and they did so with courage and dedication to service.”

Since the memorial was erected roughly 13 years ago, Capt. James Snow of the Swampscott Fire Department said he hoped to never have to add another name to it. According to the National Fire Protection Association, 96 American firefighters died from service-related injuries last year. However, in 2021 and 2022, the International Association of Firefighters reported that 572 firefighters and first responders died in the line of duty, or from health complications linked to their service.

Ryan’s widow, Leah, described her husband as a “Hulk-like” figure with an enormous level of strength. She said she hoped Ryan’s death from prostate cancer in 2022 would shine a light on some of the less-discussed risks that come with being a firefighter.

“He was just like a superhero. He was unbelievably physically strong and mentally strong. It never dawned on me that he was in danger from occupational cancer,” Leah Ryan said. “In the end, cancer was the only thing that brought him down, but it was from something that never even entered our minds … No one thinks about it, but it’s being talked about more and more now.”

Beside the monument, Hyde’s widow Theresa said the department always went “all out” for its firefighters. She said the ceremony honored her husband’s memory with a level of dedication that she said she expected from firefighters.

“They did such a beautiful job,” Theresa Hyde said. “That’s just part of being a firefighter. They’re very family-oriented. The people he worked with were like his brothers and sisters — he really loved having them over for dinners and parties. He liked to cook.”

Before a ceremonial bell ringing for each of the eight firefighters who died in the line of service, Archer commented that unlike the other firefighters memorialized on the monument who had died decades ago, Hyde and Ryan were known, remembered, and loved by the department.

“Most of the people on that monument, none of us know,” Archer said. “Today we are commemorating Mark and Billy — we know them. We broke bread with them, we attended to the sick and the injured with them, we argued with them and cooked with them, we laughed with them. We mourned with them when each dealt with their own tragic losses.”

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