Eternal Memory: Niece Recalls the Heroism of Melvin Caissie

Rita “Sis” McGuirk Ducey was 13 years old and had just spent her birthday celebrating with her family, including her loving uncle and godfather, Revere firefighter Melvin Caissie.

Three days later on Dec. 22, 1959, Mr. Caissie and his brother firefighters fought a five-alarm fire at the Oceanview Ballroom on Revere Beach in freezing temperatures and 25-miles-per-hour winds.

 As the Revere Journal story about the fire stated, “Melvin Caissie, father of five children was manning a hose line with four others, Capt. Richard Conley, Capt. Samuel Palumbo, and Hosemen John Porcella and Michael Moschella.

“Suddenly, the fire erupted, wildly of control, when eight 1,000-gallon oil storage tanks in the basement exploded.”

Tragically, Melvin Caissie never made his way out of the burning, collapsing structure. Following a search of the ruins, Mr. Caissie’s body was found near the front door, clutching an axe in one hand and a light in the other. Melvin Caissie died a hero at the age of 38.

Melvin Caissie was survived by his wife, Katherine, and their five children, Richard, Arthur, Steven, Katherine, and Melvin Jr.

‘A wonderful person’ “He was a wonderful person,” remembers Sis Ducey. “He became the father figure to myself and my sisters and brother because my father had died when I was a year old. Anybody that crossed Melvin’s path really liked him. I was so proud that Melvin was a firefighter. He was also an excellent carpenter.” She recalled her 13th birthday, the last time she had the honor and joy of being in her uncle’s company. “On my birthday he came up and gave me a gift and a special card. He would write out his card with every child’s name plus the cat and dog’s name.” Melvin Caissie who lived on Mountain Avenue, was the youngest brother in a family of eight children and was Sis Ducey’s mother Rita’s brother. “The whole family was devastated by his loss,” said Sis. “He was the life of the party, the most caring, energetic one. They used to have big French dinners after the midnight Mass on Christmas Eve and that year [1959] was going to be first dinner upstairs in the church, but it never happened.” After the fire, Chief Vincent D. MacAulay ordered the removal of all Christmas decorations from the city’s five fire stations.  According to Sis, her uncle joined the firefighting profession after serving his country in the U.S. Navy during World War II. Melvin Caissie loved being a firefighter and was admired by his comrades. The Revere community rallied around the Caissie family after the tragedy. There were fundraisers to assist Mrs. Caissie and the five children. “People from all around Revere donated,” recalled Sis. “The Ice Capades donated a doll, and raffles were sold.” The Caissie family eventually moved from Revere to California. “I keep in touch my cousin, Richard,” said Sis Ducey, the mother of two daughters. Sis Ducey, who worked for many years with Revere dentist, Dr. John Benecchi, said patients would often tell her that they knew her uncle, Melvin Caissie. “Everybody agreed that he was a wonderful person,” said Sis Ducey.

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