Title: Army private, World War I, firefighter
Birthdate: December 12, 1894
Death Date: January 23, 1925
Plot Location: Section 153, Lot 66

Screenshot (2012)

The Connison family was from Ireland, living in the Sharswood section of Philadelphia, just north of Girard College. Walter had a younger brother and sister, and his father was an ironworker at the Baldwin locomotive plant

In 1916 Walter joined the National Guard, which was activated as part of a U.S. military operation against revolutionary forces in northern Mexico. It was originally known as the Punitive Expedition, in retaliation for a raid by a Mexican revolutionary, Pancho Villa, on a town in New Mexico.

Each state sent regiments but most of them, like Walter’s, stayed in Texas and underwent training. It was a useful experience since many of them transitioned in 1917 to the war in Europe. His unit, the 109th Infantry Regiment, arrived in France in May of 1918. He was severely wounded in October and briefly listed as missing in action in the Argonne Forest.

Although he was honorably discharged in August, 1919, the 1920 census shows him on a list with other privates at Camp Merritt in Bergen County, New Jersey. The next year he returned home to become a ladderman with the Philadelphia Fire Department.

He was called to action when a fire broke out on January 3, 1925 at the Queen Automobile Tire Company on North Broad Street. He entered the building at the start of the fire to protect the stock by throwing canvas tarpaulins over the tire racks. After the fire raged for more than a half hour, Ladderman Connison was noted as being missing by Chief Engineer Ross B. Davis.

The men began a search through blinding smoke, finding him underneath a tarp. Apparently, he had been overcome and got caught beneath the tarp and was suffocated.

Among those searching for Walter was his brother, George, who arrived at the fire with the Second Alarmers Association, a volunteer rehab unit that backed up first responders. At first, he didn’t believe that his brother was dead, and didn’t give up hope until the body reached the Samaritan Hospital.

Walter had just turned 30 and had never married. He was buried on the Yeadon side by himself, but his brother, sister, and mother are buried on the Philadelphia side in Section D.

Japanese maple tree in front of a monument at Mount Moriah Cemetery

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