BEACON FALLS — The procession curled off Exit 24, toward North Main Street, and paused as ladder trucks from Seymour, Prospect, Bethany, Oxford, Roxbury and Middlebury joined firefighters marching on foot, the Connecticut Firefighters Pipes and Drums and the 1929 Seagrave bearing the reason for the assembly.
Kevin Swan, 68, a 49-year veteran of Beacon Hose Company No. 1, suffered a heart attack shortly after responding to a 5 a.m. call last Wednesday. Swan signed on the radio but never arrived at the Susan Street fire; he was found in his pickup truck, still in the driveway of his 95 Skokorat Road home, and was pronounced dead at Griffin Hospital, around 9 a.m.
On Monday, the antique fire truck Swan loved escorted his flag-draped casket from Buckmiller Brothers Funeral Home on Fairview Avenue in Naugatuck to St. Michael’s Roman Catholic Church in Beacon Falls then to St. James Cemetery in the borough.
Former Beacon Hose Chief Doug Bousquet was charged with coordinating his longtime friend’s final tour.
“It was an honor for the chief to ask me to do this for Kevin. I wanted to do it for Kevin. There are really no words for Kevin. I got to know him when I first joined the department, and I was a little intimidated by him, but in a good way.
“I learned a lot from him. He was a good leader and a good teacher. To me, he was like a father figure. For me to be the first on scene, it was very hard. I always loved him. I gave him his assistant chief badge to honor him, when I was chief, and he really was grateful.
“Kevin’s son, Brian, too, is such a big help to the department,” Bousquet continued. “The family is top-shelf. We told them they could have whatever they wanted for this. We went to the Board of Selectmen, and they told us we could do whatever we wanted, even close roads. And that’s what we did. We did whatever we could for Kevin. We wanted everything perfect for Kevin.”
Beacon Hose EMS Director Jeremy Rodorigo delivered the eulogy during the 11 a.m. Mass at St. Michael’s.
When the ceremony concluded in the cemetery, with about 200 people present, Swan’s widow, Sandra, placed a red rose and the gloved fingertips she had just kissed on the lacquered wood, before her son and Terry Buckmiller escorted her to a waiting limousine. Sandra Swan’s eyes looked weary but strong, refusing to add more drops to the morning’s persistent drizzle.
Throughout Swan’s hometown, tributes modest and grand testified to the man’s beloved stature: At a house on South Circle, two signs read, “Thank you, firefighter” and “Our hearts are with you, Swans;” outside the fire house, a pair of ladder trucks hoisted a massive, star-spangled banner that spanned the width of North Main.
Swan was a former assistant fire chief and two-term president of the senior center. He was also a member of the New Haven County Fire Chiefs Association, the Valley Fire Chiefs Association, the Red Knights Motorcycle Club, the Connecticut Fire Police Association, the Order of Eagles and the Catholic War Veterans. Swan served in the U.S. Army Reserve.
“Kevin was a special guy,” Beacon Hose Chief Brian Cloney said. “He was one of these guys that had vast experience and knowledge. We leaned on him all the time. He was a genuine asset to the company. He will be sorely missed.”
In his professional life, Swan was a heavy equipment operator and driver at American Brass, Mesa Construction and Swan Excavation. In his personal life, Swan, who carried the nickname Grumpy, sported a gruff demeanor that belied his generosity, according to friends.
“I have some wonderful memories of all the good times I had with Kevin,” former Beacon Hose Fire Chief Lee Lennon wrote in Swan’s online book of memories. “He was a lieutenant when I was the chief and was a very supportive and loyal person to me. Whenever I would come back to town from Florida, I always made a point to look up Kevin. I’ll miss him.”
Correspondent Kyle Brennan contributed to this report.