By Barbara Pelissier
Did the individual you are researching perform a heroic deed or even die while trying to save the life of another? If so, there’s a possibility that a Carnegie Hero Award was bestowed upon that individual or, posthumously, upon their surviving family members. Such was the case for Patrick O’Connor of Southampton, Massachusetts.
In the winter of 1908 Patrick died while attempting to save two young brothers who had fallen through the ice on a mill pond in the neighboring town of Northampton. With Christmas approaching, the Daily Hampshire Gazette newspaper established a fund for Patrick’s widow and two young children. As contributions from readers and Valley residents poured in, theGazette’s editor wisely pursued long-term relief for the surviving family through the Carnegie Hero Fund. By early spring, Harriet O’Connor was awarded a monthly allotment of $35 for life . Both children received $5 per month until the age of 16. The Fund also sent Mrs. O’Connor a Carnegie Hero medallion, which Patrick’s grateful grandchild now treasures. A Carnegie Hero gravestone marker will soon adorn his final resting place. In the meantime, the descendants of Mr. O’Connor recently gathered at his grave site to honor his sacrifice: Patrick O’Connor of Southampton Honored by Family for 1908 Rescue Bid
Locally, Longmeadow’s W. Howard Aureswald, Florida’s Chester A. Burdick, Northampton’s Ubald A. Arel and, posthumously, Springfield’s Cirlo Achille were all Carnegie Hero Awardees.
Because heroism never goes out of style, the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission keeps busy with their investigations and awards. Their inspirational centennial book, A Century of Heroes, can be requested by phone or online. Their newsletter, imPULSE, is also free of charge. The June 2012 imPULSE featured 19 year old awardee Nathan Yassen, from Brockton, Massachusetts. Fortunately, Nathan recovered from the effects of smoke inhalation after saving his 97 year old neighbor when her house caught fire one night last year.
The Carnegie Hero Fund Commission, based in Pittsburgh, PA, is a private foundation established in 1904 by Andrew Carnegie. Contact them at (800) 447-8900 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org Search for awardees or learn more about the Carnegie Hero Fund at: www.carnegiehero.org