CENTRAL FALLS — Fundraising for a project, especially in tough economic times, is always challenging. But when the project centers around someone as universally liked as the city’s late fire chief, Rene Coutu, the task becomes a lot easier.
Coutu, who served as fire chief for 25 years, died on Dec. 7, 2010, at the age of 60 after a battle with cancer. Now, longtime friend and Ward 2 City Councilor Robert Ferri wants to have a city park dedicated to Coutu’s memory.
“I’ve known Rene a long time, and he’s a guy so deserving of something in this city,” said Ferri.
Ferri added that ever since Coutu’s passing, getting some kind of memorial established in the chief’s name “was on my bucket list, whether I was on the council or not.” He said he recently spoke with Coutu’s wife, Denise, and his sister, Michelle, about the project, and said the family was pleased with the idea. Mayor James Diossa has also given the project the go-ahead, he said.
The location Ferri has in mind is the small park at the corner of Lewis and Hunt streets. It is not far from the house where Coutu lived with his family, and Ferri thinks it would be an ideal place to have some kind of monument or plaque in Coutu’s honor.
“I walk by here myself all the time, and it’s a nice, peaceful little place. I just thought it would be perfect,” said Ferri. He is hoping to have the project completed by next May 4, which is International Firefighters Day.
Ferri noted that his own father had worked as a Central Falls firefighter in the 1950s, along with Coutu’s father, Robert Coutu, who had also served as chief. “You always knew Rene was going to be a firefighter,” noted Ferri. He added that some had suggested the Central Falls Fire Station should be dedicated to Coutu, but he thought the park was better. “The city has had so many great fire chiefs,” he said, adding that he didn’t want to foster any hard feelings by singling one out.