On February 17, 2011, Police Officer Kevin Swords, was the first emergency responder to arrive at a burning house, and he attempted to enter the dwelling by kicking open a door between the breezeway and kitchen. Swords, who served as a police officer for 31 years, reported being met by a “wall of thick black smoke” after forcing open the door into the kitchen. His heroic efforts came too late, as the couple had already succumbed to smoke inhalation.Swords himself would pass away on Aug. 24, 2011. His colleagues also had nothing but praise for him. Det. Susan Figy, who became a reserve police officer on the same day Swords did in June, 1980, said “There was nobody who loved being a police officer more than Kevin Swords did” and went on to say “He was excellent at it because he had a passion for it. On his worst day he gave 100 percent.” Swords worked as a patrol officer from September, 1984, when he became a full-time police officer, until he was assigned to the detective bureau in the summer of 1997, where he stayed for most of the rest of his career, until his death.
Westfield also saw the end of an era in politics with the passing away of Charles W. “Charlie” Medeiros, after he lost his battle with cancer in June. Mayor Daniel M. Knapik, who served on the Westfield City Council with Medeiros, said: “My good friend has passed on. He was an old-school meet-the-people politician who never lost sight of whom he represented. He had a connection with people, was a people person. He’d say that councilors could disagree on the floor, be passionate about an issue, but that it was important to still be friends when they left the Chambers. Very few people in a lifetime become known by their first name for what they have done. Just say Charlie and people know who you’re talking about.”
On August 27, 2011, Westfield resident Edwin J. Abar, Jr. passed away. Abar, a retired professor, professor emeritus and long-time Kiwanian, is perhaps best remembered for founding the Communications Department at Westfield State University. He also taught Communication Law, Political Communication and Professional & International Communication, and was an adjunct at Springfield and Western New England College, and a guest lecturer at UMass Amherst. He worked at the former Westfield Evening News as a sportswriter and was a political consultant, a volunteer umpire for Westfield Little League, a coach for Babe Ruth, a girls soccer and softball coach, a stringer for UPI, a former VP of Blandford Country Club, and Past President and Past Lieutenant Governor of the Kiwanis Club of Westfield.
On December 16, 2011, Westfield lost the man who was arguably the city’s greatest philanthropist and supporter of children, when Albert F. Ferst passed away. Ferst, who died ate age 92, was one of Westfield best known citizens, along with his wife Amelia “Millie” (Kousch) Ferst, who predeceased him. The couple was known for their contributions to the city, and especially to Westfield’s children. The Fersts’ gifts to the city include the Amelia Park Ice Arena and Skateboard Complex, Amelia Gardens, Westfield Boys and Girls Club Building Fund, the Greater Westfield Homeless Building, Westfield State Interfaith Center, several rooms at Noble Hospital, matching funds for the Westfield Children’s Museum, the Japanese Gardens at Stanley Park, and purchase of land at the Westfield Sportsman’s Club.