Camden Post-Telegram – May 10, 1914
Throngs Jam Court House While Body Lies in State for Two Hours.
LAST SAD RITES THIS AFTERNOON
Not since the memorable funeral of Chief of Police Foster ten years ago, has there been such a genuine public tribute paid an official of Camden as was in evidence last night at the bier of the lamented Fire Chief Worthington, and today at his funeral. It is hard to estimate the number of persons in a crowd, but from 7 until 9 o’clock last night there was a steady stream of men, women and children, two abreast, who passed from the main entrance, through the center corridor and beneath the illuminated rotunda, where the body lay, and thence out by the west corridor. There was never a stop, and it is estimated that at least 10,000 persons were there, perhaps more.
There could not have been a more ideal location for the repose of the casket containing the honored dead, and the great array of beautiful flowers than beneath the rotunda. It seemed to be a sacred shrine in itself where the citizenry dropped a tear for the lamented departed. The effulgence of the soft lights from above specially installed by Electrical Chief Kelly but lent to the scene and as the dark garbed escort of firemen, the active pall bearers, stood, on guard, the scene was unusually impressive.
Chief Worthington, aside from the pallor that comes to the dead, looked as he did in life, for the thread had been snapped so quickly that it was while he was in his full vigor that the vital spark had taken its flight. There were some marks on his face that indicated the intense though momentary suffering through which he passed on his fateful plunge from the roof of the burning building to his quick death, and the passing crowd remarked this. But withal there was that calmness and repose feature which seemed to indicate that the gallant leader of Camden’s fire fighters but lay sleeping rather than that his soul had taken its eternal flight.
Public grief may be a mere ephemeral emotion, born of the moment and only to be succeeded by the acclaim of the newly arisen public idol, but last night’s encomiums seemed to come from hearts that overflowed with genuine and permanent sorrow over the untimely passing of so excellent a public servant. Many tear-suffused eyes indicated this, many expressions of grief, of sorrow, of condolence of those left showed this. The sentiment in evidence everywhere can only be likened to the sweetness of the wonderful flowers whose odor spread thorough all the corridors and in all the rooms of the great marble building.
High in the clock tower of the City Hall the bell began tolling at 6:30 o’clock. At half-minute intervals its doleful strains went forth on the cold blustery east wind which had succeeded at day of spring sunshine. The bell and the screeching wind seemed to combine as a knell indicating the passing grief of the city. It was the preliminaries to the marching of the funeral cortege from the stricken Chief’s home on Penn Street to the resting place at the Court House.
There were forty policemen in dress uniform with Chief [Elisha] Gravenor at their head. There were twenty-six fire heads from Philadelphia, with Chief William Murphy in the van, a tribute in itself of more than passing moment. There was the caisson on which was the black draped casket containing the body of he who all honored. There was the little red car in which Chief Worthington was wont to speed through the city at every alarm and there was his helmet and coat. There was Acting Chief [John] Stockton and forty of the men who fought flames under the direction of he who lay so still. There as the family in cabs with curtains drawn, the members of City Council and the active pall bearers — Daniel Leach, Peter B. Carter, James White, William Patterson, Elmer Burkett, Samuel Harring.
When the cortege reached the Court House the Camden boys took up their position on the inside beneath rotunda while the Philadelphia visitors made an imposing array on the granite steps outside. And then came the public in its steady and unending stream.
Later the Philadelphia delegation was escorted to the Board of Freeholders room where tribute was paid to the dead and where a mingling of the two cities took place. Besides Chief Murphy the visitors included Battalion Chiefs William T. Barrett and George P. McConaghy, Captains L. F. Bunting, William Lindsey; H. Dinlocker, J. Higginson, J. E. Talbot, D. Campbell, T. O’Brien, F. Hughes, E. Basenfelder; H. Hutt, William McCusker, G. Rheim, R. Wilsey, J. Webb, H. Goers, H. Haines, Insurance Patrol Captain Joseph H. Shermer William Hickman, William Rodgers, John Wyatt, David Phillip, John Clyde, H. Wilkinson.
President of City Council James E. Hewitt spoke of the work Chief Worthington had already accomplished, of his plans, of his value and worth to Camden. Chief Murphy responded in a fitting way and this incident in itself was one to be remembered.
An affecting sight was witnessed by the handful of spectators, among them being other firemen, city and county officials and policemen who remained after the big doors on Sixth Street had been closed. The last to view the Chief’s remains were a delegation of about twenty firemen. Solemnly the men passed by the bier and gazed upon the features of their departed brother.
As the last of the line approached Deputy Chief John A. Stockton was seen. He stopped and with his cap laid across his breast be looked down into the casket. For almost a minute Chief Stockton stood as though glued to the spot. Then he glanced about him and the sympathetic look upon his face thrilled all.
He heaved a sigh and perhaps the teardrops refused to come, but Chief Stockton, as the lines upon his face showed, was struggling with the inner man. His emotions were tugging at his heart, but a fire laddie cannot give way to his feelings although his brother superior officer and dear friend had answered his last alarm.
The floral pieces surrounding the bier bespoke the love, admiration and respect the donors held for the dead chief. One design particularly beautiful was a mammoth loving cup made of blossoms, flowers and roses. This was the token sent by members of City Council and other city officials.
Another was the design sent by the Electrical Bureau through Chief Kelly. The original fire box, No. 134, which was pulled on the night of the fire by Chief Worthington was enshrouded by roses, carnations and lilies.
A maltese cross standing several feet high and bearing the initials of the organization was the tribute sent by the Firemen’s Mutual Benevolent Association. Chief Worthington was president of this association.
The Camden police sent a large shield of flowers and Council members offered a vacant chair of roses. The New Jersey Auto Supply Company, No. 2 Engine Company and No. 1 Truck sent beautiful broken circles and a wreath was the offering from the employees of the Victor Talking Machine Company.
A broken circle from member of the Sixth Ward Republican Club and a wreath from his friends in the sixth precinct of the Second Ward were other beautiful pieces. West Collingswood and Collingswood firemen sent two beautiful floral circles and from the Loyal Order Legion a wreath was received.
Other offerings were from the Camden Liquor Dealers league, a beautiful circle from No. 6 Engine Company, in which house Chief Worthington was captain previous to his elevation to the office of chief; sprays from the Bethany M.E. Church, Ladies Auxiliary of the Loyal Order of Moose; a wreath from the pupils of the eighth grade Sewell School, and a spray from North Baptist Church. There also were designs from members of the family and friends, all of which bespoke the great love held for the departed fire chief.
The impressive services of the P.E. Church marked the last sad rites this afternoon at St. Paul’s Church. The guard of honor and city officials left Fire Headquarters at 1:20 and proceeded to the Worthington home and escorted the remains to the church, where services were conducted by the rector, Rev. R.E. Brestell, and Rev. H.O. Jones, rector of St. Stephen’s P.E. Church. Interment was made at Arlington.
The honorary pallbearers were Mayor Ellis, Hon. David Baird, Frank F. Patterson, John W. Bell, General John A. Mather, Melbourne F. Middleton Jr., Harry R. Reed, Arthur L. Jones, Robert Gordon, David Jester, George Schneider, William Mills, J.O. Grear, William Hall, George L. Bender, and James E. Hewitt.