Fallen Hero Statue Dedicated at Heritage Port in Wheeling
Ten firefighters listed on new monument
WHEELING — A bronze statue saluting fallen Wheeling firefighters was dedicated at Heritage Port Thursday, as an honoree’s widow and family members watched.
During a brief ceremony, the statue was unveiled dramatically when a Wheeling Fire Department ladder truck was used to raise the curtains encircling the monument. The statue is located in a grassy area near WesBanco Arena.
Wheeling Hospital donated the $13,000 statue. The memorial is a project of the International Association of Firefighters Local 12.
Ten Wheeling firefighters who died in the line of duty between 1868 and 1991 are named on the statue. Bob Heldreth, spokesman for IAFF Local 12, said the memorial also honors firefighters who died from cancer related to firefighting.
Recognized on the statue are firefighters Thomas McCue and Bartholomew Link, who died in 1868; firefighter Charles Carrell, 1869; Capt. Charles Ferguson, 1914; Engineer William M. McGee, 1920; Assistant Chief Charles “Cap” Beiswenger, 1932; Engineer Wilbert “Red” Nolan, 1955; Assistant Chief John C. Donovan Sr., 1956; Capt. Vincent Green, 1970; and Assistant Chief Robert Foster, 1991.
Foster’s wife, Margaret, and members of their family attended the dedication.
“It’s very nice that they honored Bob. I hope he’s never forgotten. He was a wonderful person,” Margaret Foster said.
Heldreth added, “It’s long overdue for the Foster family to get to see this. It was all about them today.”
Retired Fire Chief Cliff Sligar said he worked with four of the men named on the statue.
“It’s a great thing,” Sligar said of the memorial’s creation.
Heldreth said the memorial is a place where firefighters can remember the dangers of their job and honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice. He said the statue also “serves as a reminder to the community that we (firefighters) risk our lives to protect their lives every day.”
The bronze statue, titled “Fallen Hero,” was designed by Paul Olesniewicz, a sculptor and former firefighter from Tucson, Ariz. Heldreth said the firefighter’s figure is two-thirds life size and weighs 140 pounds.
Fire Chief Larry Helms and Heldreth thanked Wheeling Hospital for donating the statue and thanked other contributors to the memorial project.
“It’s nice to see such a crowd of this magnitude. It shows that the community cares about what we do as a fire department,” Helms said, surveying the large audience gathered for the ceremony.
Wheeling Hospital CEO Ron Violi cited the department’s service in fighting fires and responding to medical emergencies.
“We believe this community is so well served by the firefighters of this department,” he said.
Helms and Tom Haluscak, Local 12 president, placed a wreath at the base of the monument. Haluscak led the department’s honor guard in a bell ceremony for fallen firefighters. The program concluded with piper Betsy Bethel-McFarland playing “Amazing Grace.”
Heldreth said others who assisted with the project were Bricklayers Local 1 members Frank Eberhart Jr., Frank Eberhart III and Chad Hagler; Angelina Stone & Marble; Concrete Fabricators; Top Notch Landscaping & Supply; Orrick, Herrington and Sutcliffe; a donation in memory of Ronald Allen McKenzie; Wheeling Heritage; Upper Ohio Valley Building Trades Council; Project BEST; Panhandle Cleaning & Restoration; Stegman & Schellhase; Hoy Ready Mix; Walters Construction; Contractors Supply; city of Wheeling; Braido Memorials; David Carenbauer; Joey Jerrome; Jewell Roman; Margaret Brennan and Bethel-McFarland.