It takes a village, or in this case a town, to put on a funeral for a fallen hero.
Work began in the days before the funeral for fallen Watertown Firefighter Joseph Toscano on Wednesday morning. And volunteers, organizations and business owners all chipped in to welcome thousands of firefighters from around the Bay State and across the country to Watertown.
They provided food, shelter and – maybe most importantly – restrooms.
Just after dawn on Wednesday, a few canteens set up to provide breakfast, coffee, and later lunch for the many “jakes” who descended on Watertown Square.
The Boston Sparks Association, a volunteer group operating out of the Boston Fire Museum, setup about 6:30 a.m. Wednesday. Volunteer Tom Leone offered coffee and doughnuts to firefighters, police or whoever wandered by their tent on Whites Avenue.
“We respond automatically to (fires that hit) second alarm or more in the City of Boston or and Metro Fire – in 29 surrounding communities,” Leone said. “Also, unfortunately, to line of duty deaths and funerals.”
Also providing food for the funeral were Providence Canteen and Worcester Box 4.
Leone was a volunteer firefighter when he lived in New Jersey, and began working with Boston Sparks when he moved up to Massachusetts.
“It’s the next best thing to being on the Fire Department,” Leone said. “It’s great to back these guys – women and men who are first responders.”
The Boston Police Benevolent Society set up a grill to make eggs and home fries, burgers, hot dogs and soup for as many as 2,000 firefighters.
“They’re going to be standing out there for a long time,” said Troy Hartgrove, a Boston Police Detective. “We do this all over. We have gone to one for a New York Police Officer. That’s as far as we have gone.”
The wind made Wednesday’s funeral a chilly one, and while Watertown Firefighters could seek shelter in the Fire Station, others went to The Talk Restaurant, which served hungry first responders. The could also use a restroom and take a load off in the H&K Insurance Building, right next to St. Patrick’s Church – the site of the funeral.
The Watertown Boy’s and Girl’s Club opened its doors and facilities to funeral goers. By 11 a.m., about 30 had taken up the invitation, but more were expected, said Club Aquatics Director Rob O’Neill. The club set up a television so those who couldn’t make it into the church could watch. O’Neill said despite the crowds in the morning, he expected the Boys and Girls Club to be open for the youth of Watertown on Wednesday afternoon.
Preparation for the funeral procession began two days prior, when the Watertown Department of Public Works cleared the remaining snow piles from the sidewalks along Main Street, said Dennis Sheehan, the DPW’s Director of Administration and Finance.
The DPW and the Watertown Police closed down several roads around the procession route in Watertown Square at about 8:30 a.m.
To allow members of the Watertown Fire Department to pay their respects, firefighters from Belmont, Newton and Waltham handled calls in Watertown on Wednesday.