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Queens Auto Shop Memorializing Tragic Fire At Location

VIP Auto Body in Maspeth, Queens (credit: Alex Silverman / WCBS 880)

VIP Auto Body in Maspeth, Queens (credit: Alex Silverman / WCBS 880)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – A body shop in Queens is paying tribute to six firefighters who lost their lives there in 1962.

Mark Eberle is the general manager at VIP Auto Body in Maspeth. He had heard something bad happened there, but it wasn’t real to him until they started doing renovations.

WCBS 880′s Alex Silverman On The Story


“They started to come up around charred lumber, an elevator shaft,” he said.

A 50-year-old tragedy was unearthed.

“It was a soap and fat rendering factory,” told WCBS 880 reporter Alex Silverman.┬áIt was the Sefu Soap and Fat Co.

There was a fire on October 26, 1962 and a brick wall fell. Six firefighters couldn’t make it out.

Along with their lives, their stories were also lost.

“These guys died the weekend of the Cuban missile crisis,” he said. “They were really not the major headline.”

But no longer.

“I never got over it,” said Joyce Eagans, whose husband, Francis, was one of the six. They had just moved into their first home three weeks earlier. “My son was only two when his father died. He really didn’t remember.”

New York Daily News coverage of Tragic Maspeth Fire (credit: Alex Silverman / WCBS 880)

New York Daily News coverage of Tragic Maspeth Fire (credit: Alex Silverman / WCBS 880)

When she heard Eberle and the owner of this shop, Peter Keane, had decided to put up a plaque and have a ceremony.

“I told him that I was very happy,” she said. “I was like in shock.”

“It’s emotional when we get the phone calls and we speak to these people,” Eberle said. “Each one of these stories kinda wrenches your heart.”

On the 50th anniversary later this month, the place will be packed with families and firefighters.

“For us to honor and do a tribute for these men, we wish in a way we can do more for them,” Eberle said.

Silverman asked Eagans if this could mean closure for her.

“I hope so,” she said.