By Seth Daniel
When Father Dan Mahoney of St. Francis DeSales Church was a young priest in Charlestown, still then the chaplain of the Boston Fire Department, he had one of the hardest days of his life – June 17, 1972.
On that day, he said, the Hotel Vendome in the Back Bay caught fire and collapsed.
Ten firefighters died in that fire, including one of his own parishioners, Tommy Beckwith – whose family was well established at St. Francis.
“Tommy was the first firefighter we got out of the rubble that day,” said Father Mahoney this week. “I gave him the sacrament at Mass General and I identified him.”
Mahoney also had to tell Beckwith’s mother, Dot, that her son had perished in the fire.
“I’ll never forget that night when we had to come tell her the news,” he said. “When I walked in the door, she said, ‘It’s Tommy, isn’t it. He’s gone to the Lord…It was the worst night in the history of the Boston Fire Department.”
Last week, to help never forget the sacrifice made by Tommy Beckwith, Teamsters President Sean O’Brien presented a $60,000 donation to Father Mahoney and to the Beckwith family in the name of Tommy Beckwith – a donation that celebrates the 45th anniversary of that fire.
Robert Beckwith – who coincidentally is the Grand Marshal of the Bunker Hill Day Parade this year – said the donation meant more than he could put into words.
“It’s a very heartfelt thing for the family at the 45th anniversary of the collapse of the hotel,” he said. “For the Teamsters and Sean to still remember him and want to do something like this for him incredible. That’s the way Charlestown is. It’s a tight-knit community. Sean has ties to the Town and the Teamsters are located here too. It was very fitting that Sean did this now and that it coincides perfectly with me being the Grand Marshal. We’re going to have a big remembrance during the Parade on June 11 with the Boston Fire Department.”
Father Mahoney said they would use the donation for the upkeep of two areas of the grounds.
“The first part of the donation will be used for the upkeep of the bellyard around where we have the new statue of St. Florian,” he said. “Our church here at St. Francis is dedicated to firefighters. The rest of the donation will be used for the upkeep of the shrine to the Blessed Mother across the street. That shrine was very important to Tommy’s mother, Dot Beckwith. This is a tremendous help to the Parish for the upkeep of these two sites.”
Father Mahoney said they would have a special Mass this year on June 17 to commemorate the Vendome, and this year they would mark the 45th Anniversary.