Officially, Firefighter Elmer Clothier died from the effects of a heart attack he suffered in 1968, but folks who really knew Clothier blame a different cause. They say he died from a broken heart.
On July 20, Clothier’s relatives, his former colleagues and many present-day firefighters paid tribute to the World War II U.S. Army veteran during a memorial plaque dedication at his old firehouse, Engine 7, at Castor and Kensington avenues in Juniata.
Clothier became the 94th former firefighter and 235th emergency responder honored by the Hero Plaque Program, founded by Philadelphia attorney James Binns.
Clothier was sitting in a car outside Engine 7 on July 20, 1968, when he lost consciousness. Fellow firefighters tried to resuscitate him but were not successful. Clothier, 48, was on duty at the time.
The death of the 21-year fire department veteran and Torresdale resident further stunned a family and a community already reeling from the murder of Clothier’s 16-year-old daughter, Candice, months earlier.
Candice disappeared on March 9, 1968, after leaving her home to meet her boyfriend. Her decomposing body was found five weeks later, having washed up along the Neshaminy Creek north of Newtown, Bucks County.
Police concluded that she had been abducted, killed and dumped into the creek, although a specific cause of death was never determined. No arrests have ever been made in the case.
In the weeks after her disappearance, Elmer Clothier took part in the exhaustive search for his missing daughter, along with hundreds of police. After the girl’s discovery, Clothier continued to work the case, helping investigators track down clues.
The unsolved case remained open for decades after his death. Last summer, authorities in Bucks County formally closed the investigation, explaining that they had suspected several men of the killing for years, but all had died, so they could not be brought to justice.
His wife, Evelyn, and elder daughter, Susan, survived Elmer Clothier, who had lived in Mayfair and Torresdale. Both women moved to Texas after Elmer Clothier’s death. Evelyn passed away in December 2007.
Elmer Clothier’s niece Charlynn Caillaud and her husband, along with Clothier’s sister-in-law Charlotte Pirmann, represented the family at the plaque dedication. The law firm Cozen O’Connor sponsored the plaque. Former Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Joe Rizzo and Senior Partner Christopher Fallon represented the firm at the ceremony. Rizzo now works for the firm.
Philadelphia firefighters union president Bill Gault, Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers and Deputy Commissioners John Devlin and Ernest Hargett also assisted in the ceremony.
Clothier’s plaque will remain on display permanently outside the Engine 7 station, which also houses Ladder 10, Medic 2 and Battalion 10, alongside that of Firefighter John Crupp, who died in the line of duty in 1950.
Anyone interested in sponsoring a future Hero Plaque may contact James Binns at 215-275-3000. ••
Reporter William Kenny can be reached at 215-354-3031 or firstname.lastname@example.org