NORTH ANDOVER — Joseph “Louie” Bisson was kind to people in need and dedicated to knocking down fires, according to those who knew this man who suffered a fatal heart attack while battling a huge blaze at 1129 Osgood St. 61 years ago. He was 41 years old.
Much less is known about Edward Evans, who was not quite 25 when he dropped dead on Stevens Street while he and other members of Cochichewick Engine Co. No. 2 were rushing to a house fire at 1422 Osgood St. in 1886.
Yesterday the North Andover Fire Department honored the two fallen firefighters with a ceremony on the second floor of the Central Fire Station at 124 Main St. It was a tribute that was “long overdue,” fire Chief Andrew Melnikas said.
Evans and Bisson are now honored with two memorial plaques that will hang on the wall in the stairwell between the first and second floors of the station. Each plaque is adorned with a helmet, the firefighters’ names and their dates of service.
Retired fire Deputy Chief John McGuire, the department’s historian who arranged for the memorials, said Evans died Nov. 19, 1886. He has tried to obtain more information about this young volunteer firefighter, but so far has found out very little, he said.
“I knew Louis,” McGuire said of Bisson. In fact, McGuire, then a 15-year-old auxiliary firefighter and a high school sophomore, was at the barn fire that claimed Bisson’s life. The Oct. 26, 1952 fire destroyed two buildings and damaged two others, McGuire recalled.
McGuire, who retired from the department in 1986, said Bisson, a call firefighter, was known for his “dedication” to the mission of fighting fires. Noting that call firefighters in the 1950s were paid $500 per year, he said, “It wasn’t for money, it was for love and he (Bisson) expressed that.”
Bisson’s daughter, Betty Little, was only 11 when he died.
“He was my life,” she said of her father, who died at Lawrence General Hospital on Nov. 7, 1952.
“He never came out of the hospital,” she said. He suffered serious smoke inhalation at the fire, she said. Bisson worked at the Davis and Furber mill and often played Santa Claus, she said.
Little’s daughter Tracy Castiglione, who just retired after serving 34 years as a North Andover police officer, never knew her grandfather, but his example of public service may have been a factor in her decision to pursue a career in law enforcement.
“I always wanted to give back to the community,” she said, adding, “Don’t write about me. This is about my mom.”
“Mr. Bisson was one of the nicest people,” said Elaine (Jiadosz) Brasseur, who lived near the Bissons in her youth. Brasseur was raised by her grandmother and every holiday, the Bissons would invite them to their home.
Bisson’s wife, Simone, baked amazing fig squares and would sometimes cook meals for the rest of the Fire Department, she recalled.
“They were wonderful people,” she said of the Bisson family.
Randy Little, a grandson of Bisson, has his badge, No. 17, and his whistle. Although he never knew his grandfather, he said he has learned that Bisson was “a giving person” who would give less fortunate folks turkeys and Christmas trees during the holidays.
His grandfather also loved sports, he said. Bisson and his family lived at First and Main streets, near the present-day site of CVS.
Anyone with information about Evans is asked to contact the Fire Department at 978-688-9590.