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By James Kinneen
Hometown Weekly Reporter
On May 10, 1996, Captain Joseph R. Fandrey, a Needham native, died when two helicopters collided during a training exercise in North Carolina. On Saturday, the bridge on Highland Avenue spanning Route 128 was named in his honor, and a brief ceremony was held to commemorate the occasion.
To begin, 98.5’s Mike Riley welcomed the crowd and spoke of the Fandrey family’s history of charitable work in honor of Joseph, including an annual golf tournament in June that has raised over $150,000. After Fandrey’s cousin, Moira Costigan, sang the National Anthem and “Amazing Grace,” Needham Select Board member Daniel Matthews spoke of how “Joe and his family were, and are, part of the fabric of our community.” Francisco Urena, a Marine from the Massachusetts Secretary of Veterans Affairs, used his time to make sure the crowd took time to remember the other thirteen servicemen that died in the crash, while a fellow Catholic Memorial graduate, State Senator Mike Rush, noted that Foundry epitomized the school’s motto as a man of “poise and class.”
Rep. Denise Garlick, Sen. Mike Rush and Sen. Becca Rausch then showed off the official law that named the bridge in Fandrey’s honor, and Fandrey’s nieces and nephews unveiled the sign that would adorn the bridge. A priest blessed the sign for safe travels, and the Marine Corps Hymn ended the ceremony.
While there were many speakers who talked about remembering and honoring our veterans, how the Marine Corps’ birthday was the same weekend as the bridge ceremony, and how Needham now has three paths into the town named in honor of the community’s fallen veterans, it was Fandrey’s high school friend, retired Army Lieutenant Michael Donahue, whose words stood out the most.
Donahue talked about how great it was that a bridge was being named after Joe, as bridges bring people together. In both life and death, he explained, that was what Joe did. He talked about the gut-wrenching moment he learned about the crash, and how he scoured the internet in the era of dial-up speeds to find out if Joe was one of the fallen. And he spoke of how, when he saw his wife waiting for him at the front door, she didn’t have to say a word.
But above all else, he talked about Joe, and how sad he is for the people that will cross the bridge, having never known him. While they’ll know he was a Marine, he noted, they won’t know “how funny Joe was, what a big personality he had. They won’t know that he was kind, morally strong, and that he always stood up for others. They won’t know that for some unknown reason, he called the love of his life ‘Groove,’ and that he was a bad, but ambitious singer. They won’t know how he used to sneak me into Kitty O’Shea’s.”
While everyone that crosses the newly named bridge will know that Joseph Fandrey was a Marine who died in service to his country, Donahue made sure the crowd at the commemoration understood that he wasn’t just a standout soldier and a stellar American: he was a really great guy.