Cantara feted at Southbridge Town Council meeting

More than 30 years of service recognized

By Shaun Moriarty
Citizen Chronicle Writer

SOUTHBRIDGE — For more than 30 years, Jason Cantara called “The Big House” on Elm Street his home away from home. He has since moved on in his firefighting career, but not without a public show of appreciation for his work.

Cantara officially left the Southbridge Fire Department on May 12, moving on to the Charlton Fire Department as its new deputy chief. The decision, he said, was “difficult” after decades battling blazes in his hometown. Cantara was first appointed in 1987 and became a full-time firefighter on August 8, 1988. He was promoted to lieutenant in 2001 and was honored by Governor Deval Patrick in 2010 as the Massachusetts Firefighter of the Year.

Honored with multiple gifts and a standing ovation during Monday night’s Town Council meeting, Cantara joked his eyes had begun watering due to a failure to take allergy medications. He thanked colleagues and peers, past and present, “for having my back” over the years and that so many had “inspired me.”

Firefighter Michael Gonyor, speaking on behalf of the local firefighters union, called Cantara “a pillar of this community” for not just his work as a fireman, but also his altruistic endeavors in the community. Gonyor presented a framed proclamation from the union as well as a custom-engraved golf putter.

Town Council Chairwoman Denise Clemence presented a proclamation from the community as well as a framed photo collage, complete with a red mat signed by many of Cantara’s former colleagues. “It is with great sadness we have you leaving us here,” she said.

Southbridge Fire Chief Mark DiFronzo added an award for “valuable, dedicated professional service,” along with a “challenge coin.”

“I’m excited for the challenge that he has decided he wants to take on,” DiFronzo said. The fire chief later affirmed he had been “lucky” to work with and for Cantara since joining the Southbridge Fire Department in 2002.

Cantara leaving the firehouse on Elm Street earlier this month for the final time as a member of the Southbridge Fire Department.

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