Rochester, MN (KROC AM News) - The Rochester Fire Department plans to hold a somber, annual memorial Monday.

The event will be held to remember a young boy and two of its firefighters who drowned in Silver Lake on Christmas Eve 1953.

RFD says “ The fateful holiday started quietly for the Rochester firefighters, who spent their morning repairing Christmas toys for needy children. At 12:55 p.m., a call came into the downtown fire station reporting a child had slipped through the Silver Lake ice.”

Firefighters Ambrose Riley and Stanley O’Brien were two of the first responders sent to the scene and saw 9-year-old John Paul Stephenson struggling in the cold water. The two began rescue efforts using a ladder and pike pole, only to find themselves in the water. They reached the struggling boy and were able to briefly slide him onto a floating piece of wood, but he slipped back into the water The two firefighters dove to find the boy, but all three disappeared from sight. Their bodies were recovered a short while later. Other firefighters also made rescue attempts, but the difficult conditions left them exhausted and suffering from cold exposure.

Monday’s event will begin at 9:00 AM at the Silver Lake Firefighters Memorial. The event will include statements by a member of the department, a bell ceremony, and the placing of a wreath at the memorial. The Rochester Fire Department hopes this ceremony will not only help residents recognize the sacrifices of first responders but also remind them to use caution on and around the ice this time of year.

Ambrose Riley







Stanley O'Brien







John Stephenson



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