1867 – 1921
Born in Ottawa on July 1, 1867, the day Confederation came into effect, John William Graham lived at 74 Laurier Ave. E, next door to the fire station (which has since moved). Shortly after Ottawa created its professional fire service in 1874, Francis Graham, John’s father, had been made full-time captain of No. 3 Fire Station, then at the corner of Nicholas and Besserer Sts. John grew up at the station (his family lived upstairs) and by the age of 7 was already helping out by closing the doors of the station after the firemen left for a call. Francis died in 1877, Ottawa’s first fireman to succumb in the line of duty. His death is commemorated at the Ottawa Fire Fighters Memorial in front of City Hall.
John followed in his father’s footsteps, also becoming captain of No. 3 Station before being named Ottawa’s Fire Chief in 1910. Graham was an influential leader, modernizing and expanding the brigade as well as advocating fire prevention through inspections and reform to the building code. In 1915, he became the founding president of the Dominion Fire Chiefs Association. Graham was a popular man and thousands attended his funeral procession when he died suddenly of a heart attack. His name is remembered today on a medallion on the wall of the Old Fire Hall on Sunnyside Ave. (now a community centre). He, as well as his parents, are buried in Beechwood cemetery.