Submitted by his Chief
In life‚ Gerald Leduc was a leader among firefighters‚ recalled a longtime friend‚ retired Fire Department Capt. Howard Passwater. Leduc was at one time Chief of the South Tiverton Volunteer Fire Department‚ but he never aspired to any rank‚ Passwater said in an interview earlier this week. He was promoted posthumously to lieutenant.
He had worked 25 years as a fulltime firefighter‚ although he began his career in the volunteer force as a teenager. Passwater‚ the retired Fire Department Captain‚ said he has spent several sleepless nights this past week wondering about the fragility of life.
Leduc‚ 52‚ had been on his day off last Sunday‚ enjoying Stafford Pond on a jet ski‚ when the call came in about a man overboard in the vicinity. ‘He would bend over backward to do anything for anybody‚ which is how he ended up dying‚’ Passwater said.
He had ‘more friends than he could count‚’ Passwater said. ‘He was very cool under pressure. It was very hard to rattle Gerry.’
Passwater‚ Leduc‚ and another firefighter had been on a triple date one night in 1982 when they were walking to their cars and heard the unmistakable sounds of a car-pedestrian accident; the squeal of brakes followed by a thud. A drunken driver on Stafford Road had struck a man named Joseph Arruda‚ shearing off one leg and sending him 20 feet into the air as he was trying to cross the street to his car. In flash‚ Leduc and Passwater took off their belts. Leduc got to the man first‚ fashioning a tourniquet. Arruda‚ who survived‚ credited Leduc and a police officer‚ Mark Pelletier‚ with saving his life. ‘There was a lot of blood‚’ Arruda said in a phone conversation this week. ‘I wouldn’t have made it if they weren’t there.’
Passwater said he and Leduc never had to talk much about what needed to be done on the job. They could read each other’s thoughts‚ he said‚ recalling the time when firefighters had driven down a narrow lane to fight a fire on a farm but didn’t have enough clearance in the woods to line up two fire trucks so they could get the water off one vehicle into the hoses of the other. Passwater and Leduc looked at each other‚ Passwater recalled‚ and they both moved as one to unload a portable gasoline pump from one of the trucks and get it going. But the highlight of their shared experiences must have been the time they delivered a baby together in the back seat of a car parked outside the police station‚ just off Route 24‚ Passwater said. It happened during the 1970s‚ when they were young volunteer firefighters‚ still green in experience. He remembered how their shared terror gave way to elation with the birth of the child. ‘I remember that it was cold‚ because there was steam coming off the baby‚’ he said.
Another man who worked with Leduc‚ fire Captain Kevin Ratcliffe‚ said it was fitting that Leduc’s last call involved diving and rescue operations‚ the things he loved most. (Copied from the Providence Journal article) Lt. Leduc was awarded the rank of Lieutenant posthumously; he was also awarded the Department of valor and the metal of Honor. He was also awarded the IAFF Medal of Honor.