Condolences to the Leduc family. Rest in peace, brother.
To the end, firefighter spent his life trying to help others
08:30 AM EDT on Tuesday, August 5, 2008
By Amanda Milkovits
Journal Staff Writer
Members of the Tiverton Fire Department come to shore after searching Stafford Pond yesterday for a missing boater. At right is Tiverton Police Chief Robert Lloyd. The Providence Journal / Bob Breidenbach
TIVERTON –– Sunday was Gerald Leduc’s day off from the Tiverton Fire Department, so he was zipping around Stafford Pond on his jet ski when he detoured over to his best friend’s dock, barely a half-mile from his own.
Leduc and Philip Godek had known each other going way back to when Leduc was a young volunteer firefighter. He’d been eager to become a certified scuba diver in case the department formed a dive team and needed to search for people in the water. Godek, the owner of Pisces Diving Services in the north end of town, was Leduc’s instructor, and they became best friends.
The old friends chatted for a while, and then Leduc, 52, jetted home. And then his pager went off. Someone was in trouble in the pond. They were calling in dive teams from Little Compton and Fall River.
Searchers mourn firefighter, find no trace of missing man
Video: Friend remembers Gerald R. Leduc
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Tiverton had never formed a dive team, but Leduc was still certified. He called his fire chief and volunteered to join the search. He grabbed his diving gear and was gone.
A little while later, a neighbor noticed sirens and lights down at the end of the pond and called Godek. “We’ll call Gerry and find out what’s going on,” Godek told his wife.
Someone else answered Leduc’s cell phone. He’d had a heart attack as he prepared to dive in search of a missing Rehoboth fisherman.
Godek was one of the first at the St. Anne’s Hospital emergency room in Fall River, where Leduc had been taken Sunday night. “I spent 45 minutes holding his hand last night,” Godek said yesterday. “It doesn’t seem real. It never does.”
The flag outside Leduc’s home at the edge of Stafford Pond was at half-staff yesterday, while across the pond, divers from four different agencies continued to search for the body of 38-year-old Joseph Traficante. Divers carefully dodged stumps and rocks, but the murky water didn’t yield any sign of the missing man.
The flag at Fire Station 4, where Leduc had worked, was lowered. Black bunting was draped over the doorways of Fire Station 3, a short distance from the pond. The Fire Department that he’d served for 36 years, as a volunteer and paid firefighter, was planning his funeral yesterday afternoon.
Fire Lt. Mark Reimels said he believed that Leduc was the first Tiverton firefighter to die in the line of duty. Leduc died of an apparent cardiac arrest soon after he’d gotten into the water, he said.
Leduc had joined the department at age 16 and then was hired in 1984. Godek was there at Town Hall when Leduc was sworn in. Back then, his friend had the nickname “Lucky Leduc,” Godek said, though the reasons for it have vanished in time.
Leduc was one of the indispensable people in this small town, where he was 1 of just 32 paid firefighters. He wore his Fire Department pager all the time, just in case he was needed, Godek said. The circumstances of his death –– volunteering to save someone –– were characteristic of him. “He was just one of those guys who just wanted to help people,” Godek said.
Leduc was close to his sons, Michael, 22, who is studying to be a paramedic, and Jonathan, 20, who loves computers. “He was really the kind of father who would do anything for his kids,” Godek said.
Leduc was divorced and was dating Denise deMedeiros, the School Committee chairwoman, whom he’d met when she was a nurse at the emergency room at St. Anne’s Hospital. DeMedeiros declined to speak at Leduc’s home yesterday.
He had many friends, Godek said, and he was known for his sense of humor, and for his love for hot tubs, especially his own eight-person tub installed on a pavilion at his house.
Some stories combine both humor and hot tubs. Leduc loved staying at Loon Mountain –– he didn’t ski, but he loved the hot tub there. He was in the hot tub when a stranger asked him about the ski trails, Godek remembered. Leduc made up some good stories about conditions on the trails, until deMedeiros called his bluff, and the stranger scurried away in confusion. Leduc thought it was hilarious. “He said, ‘I really had that guy going!’?” Godek remembered.
Godek spent yesterday pacing inside his quiet shop, alone with the dive equipment and fire extinguishers from his other business, Tiverton Fire and Safety, which he’d bought from Leduc about 25 years ago.
They’d worked together for years on jobs filling and fixing fire extinguishers for clients in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and southern New Hampshire, always staying at hotels with hot tubs. Leduc was using his scuba-diving skills to work on pool drains for a friend’s pool company. Godek teased him about scuba diving in swimming pools.
On Friday, Leduc had spent the day at Godek’s shop working on 40 fire extinguishers. He told Godek he’d be back on Monday to finish the remaining 25.
All day, Godek waited, unable to work, believing somehow that his best friend would walk in the door.
The wake for firefighter Gerald Leduc will be held Thursday from 4 to 9 p.m. at Auclair’s Funeral Home, 690 South Main St., Fall River. A procession will leave the funeral home at 8 a.m. Friday to St. Theresa’s Church, 265 Stafford Rd., Tiverton, for the funeral Mass at 10 a.m. The funeral procession and Mass were originally scheduled at 10 a.m., and noon, but were changed to the earlier times. Burial is at Notre Dame Cemetery, 1540 Stafford Rd., Fall River. A memorial fund has been set up in Leduc’s name at all Bank of America branches.
With reports from staff writers Chloe Thompson and Gina Macris.