National Fallen Firefighters Foundation

Roll of Honor

Fire Police
Age: 70
Year of Death: 2004

Richard L. Gabrielli

Submitted by his daughter

My father was a fireman for as long as I can remember. My memories are of seeing him in parades riding on the trucks‚ pancake breakfasts‚ working bingo nights and most of all going with him to the fire hall to clean the trucks. My childhood memories of the fire department are all fun times‚ Christmas caroling in the winter and the battle of the barrel in the summer‚ but as you get older‚ you realize it is so much more.

One Friday night while at a High School football game‚ my father jumped up from his seat and started running down the bleachers and everyone turned to look wondering why he all of a sudden jumped up like that. Just then‚ the fire whistle started blowing. Everyone started laughing because he was already down from the bleachers and running toward the gate before anyone else even heard it sound. I don’t know how he could do that‚ but he did it every time.

He was a volunteer fireman for George G. McMurtry Fire Department in Vandergrift‚ Pennsylvania for 36 years and worked his full time job as an accountant for ALCOA Research Center for 30 years. Back in the early 70’s‚ seeing that there would be little anyone could do if a fire were to break out at the ALCOA Center‚ he started a fire department at work. This department saved many lives when an explosion occurred only a few years later.

In 1981‚ he received an award for saving the life of a fellow firefighter. He was electrocuted against the fire truck when the ladder came into contact with electrical wires. My father and some of the other firemen knocked him away from the truck and performed CPR.

My father’s life was a life of service; he was a devoted husband to his wife Elsa ‘Betty’ Petarca Gabrielli for 46 years; he was a loving father of three and grandfather of seven. He was an active member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars‚ American Legion‚ Knights of Columbus‚ Son’s of Italy and the Association of the Blind where he was a former board member. He was the Treasurer of the Westmoreland County Democratic Committee for 6 years and was President of the Vandergrift Council for 5 years. He put into motion his idea of starting the Westmoreland Transit‚ and was active with HAZMAT.

During the 36 years as a Volunteer firefighter he held various offices including first and second Vice President‚ first and second Assistant Chief‚ Assistant Treasurer‚ and First-aid Captain. He was a leader and a teacher. He was a CPR Instructor and taught many first aid classes. He was involved with Rainbow Control‚ the oldest dispatching center in the nation. He was instrumental in converting it to the 911 Emergency Management Center of Westmoreland County in 1989.

He retired as an accountant in 1993‚ but could never stop being a man of service. He was a firefighter. A firefighter goes when someone is in need of help and assistance. He was there offering his expertise‚ his ideas and to help in any way he could. At 70‚ he was no longer actively fighting fires as he wished he could‚ but was still offering his assistance as fire police directing traffic. He died doing what he loved-helping others.

Memorial Posts


Memorial Wall

  • (will not be published)

  1. Your story was such a tribute to your father. It made him come to life for those that never knew him. He truly was a firefighter to be admired.

    – Sue