By Mike LaBella
---- — Angela Buckley left it in the hands of the mayor’s office to select a park bench as a memorial to her husband, Deputy Fire Chief Robert Buckley Jr.
She arranged to dedicate the bench on his birthday, July 29, but had not seen the bench she paid for and which city workers had cemented in place at Bradford Common, where she and her husband often went for walks together.
Buckley arrived early, before the mayor, and when she finally saw the bench her eyes teared. For a short time it was just her, the bench and the love she felt for the man she lost to cancer three years ago.
“Happy birthday, babe,” she said to her husband.
It was her gift to the city as well, and one she hopes the public will enjoy using.
Buckley said she wanted to have an intimate dedication ceremony attended just by her and the mayor, who brought a woman from his office to take a picture.
“He would have wanted it to be simple,” Buckley said about her husband. “It was my birthday gift to my husband and I miss him terribly.”
Robert Buckley Jr. died of cancer Aug. 30, 2010, at his home, surrounded by his family. He rose through the ranks after being appointed to the Fire Department in September 1985. He was promoted to lieutenant in 1989, captain in 1993 and deputy chief in 2002. In May 2010, he retired from the department.
Angela Buckley said she was thinking of creating some sort of lasting tribute to her husband last year when she heard about the city’s memorial bench program. She said she contacted the mayor’s chief of staff, David Van Dam, who outlined the program and told her he’d take care of the details.
“David asked where I might like a bench and I told him the little common, which my husband loved and where we went on walks together,” she said.
“I didn’t know where to go to buy a bench. It was all in David’s hands,” she said. “He chose a beautiful slate gray bench. It’s a really beautiful bench.”
She said her husband, whom she married in 2007, was fascinated with the city’s history and its architecture. She said he was an avid deer hunter and enjoyed playing board games.
“We’d have constant Scrabble matches,” she said. “He was a homebody and had some very close friends.”
Fiorentini called Deputy Chief Buckley a dedicated firefighter and a family man.
“His commitment to his community will not be forgotten,” the mayor said. “We thank his widow, Angela, for her purchase of the bench and for helping to continue to make our city beautiful.”
In September 2012, a the 26th annual IAFF Fallen Firefighter Memorial service in Colorado Springs, Colorado, the names of three Haverhill firefighters were added to a Wall of Honor. Also added to the wall were names of other fallen firefighters from the Merrimack Valley.
Haverhill three honorees — Lt. Mark Young, who served on Engine 4 at the Bradford fire station; Deputy Chief Buckley, who served at the Water Street station; and firefighter David Turner, who served on Engine 1 at the High Street station —were among the 154 firefighters and emergency medical personnel from the United States and Canada honored at the ceremony hosted by Colorado Springs Firefighters.
At the time, Haverhill firefighter and local union president Greg Roberts said Young, Buckley and Turner are all considered to have died in the line of duty because they succumbed to occupational-related cancers.
“All three had to retire when they got sick and were no longer able to perform their duties,” Roberts said. “These are the first line-of-duty deaths we’ve had since 1990. These are regular line-of-duty deaths, and not regular passings.”