BOSTON (AP) — A Boston firefighter and former Marine killed in an apartment blaze last week was praised Thursday as a courageous, compassionate man who served his country in Iraq and his community at home.
Firefighters from around the country and citizens numbering in the thousands lined the streets as Michael Kennedy's casket, escorted by hundreds of bagpipers and drummers, was carried on a fire engine to a church in the West Roxbury neighborhood where he grew up.
Kennedy, 33, died March 26 when he and a colleague were trapped in a burning brownstone building in Boston's Back Bay area. His funeral came a day after friends, family and fellow firefighters from far and wide gathered to remember Lt. Edward Walsh, 43, in suburban Watertown.
"We are a brotherhood," said Don Gaber, a Columbus, Ohio, firefighter who drove more than 12 hours for both funerals.
The Rev. John Unni, pastor of a church near Kennedy's firehouse, said Kennedy's family and friends described him as a prankster and a gym guru with a passion for helping others.
He was a mentor with Big Brothers Big Sisters of America and worked with charities for wounded veterans and burn victims. Kennedy was one of the first responders during last year's Boston Marathon bombings, and had been training to run this year's race after winning a bib number in an essay contest.
Unni said Kennedy's father, Paul, called him "a good soul" and remembered praying for his son's protection in both military and public service.
Paul Kennedy was presented with the firefighter's union medal of honor for his son. He received a standing ovation in the church as he raised it above his head, then placed it on his son's casket.
A firefighter carried Kennedy's Ladder 15 helmet out of the church ahead of his casket. Kennedy was buried down the street in a historic cemetery plot dedicated to fallen firefighters.
"The loss of such a courageous, vibrant, compassionate man, leaves a void in our communities that is impossible to fill," Mayor Martin Walsh said at his funeral.