By Mary Kury, life partner of Matt LeTourneau (2018-PA)
After the Grit Growth & Grace seminar series for widows, the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF) was helpful in getting our contact information to each other. Linda Herbert, wife of Donnie Herbert (2006-NY), is from Buffalo, and we had an instant bond as I grew up in the suburbs of Buffalo and lived there until college.
When Matt and I first started dating, we discussed holidays. I told him it was perfectly fine to spend holidays with his family; mine is spread out, so we are used to not celebrating together. But with my dad approaching 80, I told Matt I would like to get to my hometown twice a year to check on him. Matt adored WNY–the Falls, the food—and he laughed when my standard answer to how far away somewhere was (“less than 20 minutes”) came true.
Since Matt’s death, I have continued to make those trips to visit my dad. Twice, Linda and I tried to get together but just couldn’t make our schedules align. She’s been super supportive as a pen pal, and I was confident we would find a way to make it work.
Fast forward to the holiday tree decorating in 2021. I arrived at the chapel on my own and sat quietly in the pew listening to the afternoon’s agenda. I glanced at the ornament table, and the very first one that caught my eye was a large, handpainted yellow one. It was too far for me to read, but when I was able to, I recognized the name immediately! I took a picture and texted it to her, hardly able to believe she and I were in the same place at the same time! It was such an amazing feeling to be able to meet in person in the chapel and hug!
Linda was so gracious and introduced me to other amazing ladies. My only goal that morning was to honor the fallen by decorating their trees. How comforting that a good deed was repaid many times over being able to share a few hours together. We hope to see each other again (twice!) in 2022 in our home State of New York–first with NFFF in the spring and later for the 58th Annual Professional Firefighters Golf outing in September.
Watch the 2021 Fire Hero Family Tree Lighting
Each year, the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation decorates trees in memory your firefighters. These beautiful trees are on display in the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Chapel, featuring ornaments from the you, our families, and departments of America’s Fire Heroes from around the country.
Ornaments on Our Fire Hero Family Trees
You sent ornaments in honor of their loved ones. Each year, these precious memories are displayed in the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Chapel. These ornaments are hung with care to let you know that you are not alone, and that we too, remember your beloved firefighter this holiday season.