Central Falls honors two public servants

Central Falls will transform this lot on Hunt Street into a memorial park for two former fire chiefs.

It was a little more than three years ago that the city of Central Falls lost its longtime fire chief, Rene Coutu.

The fire department he led for so long, along with the city he called home, is honoring both him and his father, Robert Coutu, who preceded his son as fire chief.

The two served about 35 consecutive years as chief.

"Over 70 years of combined service and for over 35 years the only name that was on that chief's door was Coutu, whether Robert or Rene," said Fire Chief Robert Bradley. "I think that's a tremendous legacy."

That legacy will be honored with a memorial park on Hunt Street in the city. Organizers have been raising money to get it started.

There will be dedications to the chiefs, flags, and benches.

"A couple of granite posts that recognize the contributions that were made. There's going to be a nice little walkway. Just a place for people can go, sit down, relax" Bradley said.

Fittingly, the memorial will be built just a couple of blocks from where the elder Chief Coutu raised his family, including his son who would succeed him and serve more than 25 years as fire chief in Central Falls.

"The biggest thing I can tell you about Chief Coutu, he was one of those people you hope to meet once or twice in a lifetime. He was one of those men. He was compassionate, understanding," Bradley said.

A Rene Coutu Memorial 5K will be held March 30 at Daggot Farm at Slater Memorial Park to raise money for the memorial. Register at

The plan is to open the park May 4, which is International Firefighters' Day.