As the sound of bagpipes filled the air at noon this past Saturday, the Kansas City Missouri Fire Department Honor Guard posted the colors to begin a memorial service marking the fourth anniversary of the fire at Independence Boulevard and Prospect that took the lives of firefighters John V. Mesh and Larry J. Leggio.
A permanent memorial to two Northeast-born and bred heroes was dedicated on the west wall of Snyder’s Supermarket, facing the site of the fire.
Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas was present and addressed the families directly with a personal message.
“The sacrifice John Mesh and Larry Leggio made for our community will not be forgotten,” he said. “Regardless of what it is in life you need, whether it’s someone to listen or help getting through a tough time, our city is here for you.”
Interim KCFD Fire Chief Donna Maize spoke about the lessons learned from the fire and the fourteen recommendations that came from the investigations including the establishment of new procedures designed to save firefighter’s lives.
“We will continue to work to make the job safer for all firefighters and we will never forget the ultimate sacrifice made by two of our own,” she said.
Following a formal bell ceremony, the memorial was unveiled by Missy Leggio, Larry Leggio’s widow and John Oliver, nephew of John Mesh.
The initial memorial project was undertaken by the Northeast News, Snyder’s Supermarket, and Brad Pence of Pence Enterprises who secured the black, Indian marble stone and did the laser etching of the memorial.
Pence passed away last Friday morning after a heroic battle with cancer. His wife Nicole was in attendance and embraced Missy Leggio after the unveiling of the memorial.
“This was such an important project for Brad,” Nicole said. “He was just so proud to be a part of this project. He would have wanted me to be here to represent him.”
The memorial stone was originally unveiled in January 2016 to christen the Kansas City Fire Department history exhibit at the Kansas City Museum.
After that exhibit closed, it was to be moved to the fire site. Before the vacant land could be secured as a pocket park for the memorial, ownership was transferred and a development plan was advanced to the city for a small shopping center.
A number of proposals advanced by the developer incorporated the memorial stone into the development.
The project was ultimately turned down by the full council this past spring paving the way for the memorial to be placed against the west wall of Snyder’s Supermarket.
“I’m glad there’s a permanent memorial to remember John and Larry,” said Jim Mesh, brother of John Mesh. “Today is a hard day for the families, but this is a great tribute to two neighborhood guys who paid the ultimate sacrifice for their community.”
“This brings everyone together because that tragic event brought everyone together,” said Missy Leggio. “It’s a time to reflect, share stories and to keep their memories alive and not forget”.
Saturday’s memorial dedication ceremony was made possible by these community partners: The Northeast News, Snyder’s Supermarket, Pence Enterprises, The Kansas City Museum, Tate Williams with Emerging Builders and CoBuild LLC., The Northeast Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, Independence Avenue Community Improvement District, Passantino Bros. Funeral Home, Kansas City, Missouri Fire Department, IAFF Local 42 Community Assistance Fund, and Scimecca’s Italian Sausage Company.