Obituary of Al Fay
Al Fay, once elected the unofficial mayor of Burlington, for his firefighting, political, and community involvement passed away after a short but aggressive battle with cancer on Friday, January 5, 2024 surrounded by his family. He was 88 years old. Al was born in Somerville. He was one of four children born to Albert and Mary Fay and grew up in Medford. His family moved to Burlington in 1953 and Burlington has been his life ever since.
Al’s first job in Burlington was with Sunny Hurst Dairy delivering milk to residents and businesses. It was at Carpenters general store that he met Bob Carpenter and became fast friends. It was also at Carpenter’s store that Joyce Miller caught his eye; 11 months later, they were married and made their home on the Miller family chicken farm, where the family grew.
Al embraced his new life in Burlington and joined the fire department as a “call man” who volunteered when the alarm sounded. The following year, he was appointed as one of the first full-time professional firefighters in Burlington. He enjoyed a 35-year career with the department, eventually retiring as fire prevention officer. Al was instrumental, over the years developing the young fire department into the finest public safety agency in the area. He always had a second job working for Burlington Lumber and Concord Caterers.
While raising a family of four children, helping his father-in-law with the poultry farm and performing his duties as a firefighter, Al found time to involve himself in other areas as well. He was a charter member of town meeting and served on several committees and numerous boards. Both Al and Joyce involved themselves in scouting, youth activities and helping to preserve town history. As many firefighters do, he started collecting toy firetrucks, and fire-related memorabilia that he eventually created the Fay’s Fire Museum to display them. The ultimate prize was his 1940 Ford open cab fire pumper that we all see circling the town common and riding in the July 4th parade. Even Santa Claus enjoyed a ride to Burlington Common for the tree-lighting ceremonies right up to this past December. With the help of some close friends over 20 years ago, Truck Day was born, a unique event on the common that has proven wildly popular and has become a yearly event for all to enjoy.
After retiring from the fire department, Al chose to seek elected office, serving two terms as selectman and two terms on the Planning Board. He also served on the Burlington Housing Authority, Burlington Credit Union, Union President for the fire fighters, and President of the Fire Wardens Association. He volunteered with the Special Olympics for decades. Al had volunteered for many years helping the Burlington Community Scholarship Foundation's Adopt A Class program raise dollars for scholars. He joined the Board of Directors in 2009 and was an integral member of the board. He is most noted for his tireless efforts volunteering for the Annual Telethon. In 2023 Al was named Emeritus, the highest honor for a board member. He was thanked for his dedication and years of service. He was a member of the Burlington Rotary Club where help in community work, charitable giving and their youth program called Interact. You don’t have to look far to see where Al has had an impact in town including the development of the Sun Microsystems campus, Third Ave redevelopment, and the redevelopment as well as expansion of Lahey Health & Hospitals. He used his negotiating skills helping in the “Land Swap” that brought the ownership of the Grandview Farm to Burlington as well as 72 units of much-needed affordable senior housing opportunities here. This was just the tip of the iceberg as Al’s involvement in Burlington. He was honored in 2017 as the Outstanding Citizen of Burlington recognizing his lifetime of community service and a desire to help achieve a quality of life unique to Burlington.
Al was a person who was always in perpetual motion. He was a member of the Box 52 Club, Rock Busters, and Sparks Club. When he retired, he worked part time at Doyle Lane Funeral Home, Herb Chambers Kia, and Alexander Welding. He could spend hours tending to his garden and yard. Camping was a big family activity. It progressed from a tent, a home-made trailer, and finally an RV. He and Joyce drove across country twice and met new friends wherever he stopped. He simply loved people. Kids had a special place in his heart and there wasn’t anything that would stop him from trying to bring a smile and a little joy into their lives. It seems that Ralph Waldo Emmerson famous quote could be written about Al Fay. “To laugh often and much: To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children, to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others, to leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you lived. This is to have succeeded.” Al truly made Burlington a better place to live now and for future generations for which we are all thankful.
Al was the beloved husband of 67 years of Joyce P. (Miller) Fay. Loving father of Albert “Al” Fay, III & his wife Gail of Burlington, Susan Dignan & her husband Donal J. of Nashua, NH, Robert M. Fay & his wife Joanne of New Braintree, and Lynne O’Neill & her husband Daniel of Burlington. Brother of Karen Bingel of Burlington, James Fay of Burlington, and the late Mary Mills. Proud grandfather of Jennifer MacLeod, Randall Fay, Donal P. Dignan, Matthew Dignan, Brianna Dignan, Corynne Dignan, Genavieve Fay, Olivia Fay, Michael O’Neill, Kevin O’Neill, Sean O’Neill, and Emily O’Neill. Great grandfather of Joshua, Aiden, Colin, Theodore, Donal, and Weston.
Visiting hours will be held at the Edward V. Sullivan Funeral Home, 43 Winn St., Burlington on Tuesday, January 9 from 4-7pm. Funeral from the Sullivan Funeral Home on Wednesday, Jan. 10 at 9am, followed by a Mass of Christian Burial at St. Margaret Church in St. Veronica Parish, 111 Winn St., Burlington at 10am. Services will conclude with a burial at Chestnut Hill Cemetery, Burlington.
In lieu of flowers, memorials in Al’s name may be made to the to the Burlington Community Scholarship Foundation c/o Brian Curtin 35 Center Street, Burlington, MA 01803
For online guestbook and video tribute see: sullivanfuneralhome.net
Edward V. Sullivan
43 Winn Street
Burlington, MA 01803
Ph: (781) 272-0050