Arthur “Art” Vincent (1922-1987) served our country as the highest ranking enlisted man on a B-17 Flying Fortress in World War II, was a machinist with Pratt & Whitney Aircraft for 42 years, and a charter member of he Collinsville Volunteer Fire Department. He was killed in the line of duty at a fire department drill when struck by a vehicle driven by an 18-year-old who had been drinking.
Vincent was born in Central Falls Rhode Island, but lived in Collinsville most of his life and was a graduate of Canton High School. During the war, he was stationed in England as a member of 305th Bombardment Group of the 8th Air Force. He held the rank of sergeant. When the Collinsville Volunteer Fire Department was formed in 1966, after the Collins Company Fire Department was disbanded with the company’s closure, Vincent was among the first to join. He served the department as administrative captain and as lieutenant of the fire police. He had retired from Pratt & Whitney in 1983, and was 64 years old when he was killed.
In his role as a fire policeman, Vincent was directing traffic on July 12 along Albany Turnpike (Route 44) where the town’s then three fire departments were engaged in a training exercise, burning a building slated for demolition. It was a long drill and Vincent had been there most of the day, leaving only briefly to take his wife to church. Around 4:30 p.m., as firefighters were readying to leave the scene, he stepped into the westbound passing lane to stop traffic for a fire truck entering the road. He was hit by the oncoming car while the truck was across both westbound lanes. Vincent was rushed to St. Francis Hospital by ambulance where he died in the emergency room from multiple trauma around 6 p.m.
Vincent was a member of many fraternal organizations and an active member of St. Patrick’s Church in Collinsville where he was an usher for many years. He was a lifetime member of the Albert Johnson Post No. 90 of the American Legion where he served as adjutant and commander.
At the time of his death, Collinsville Fire Chief Duane Demski described Vincent as outgoing and well liked. “He was loved by all the people in this department,” Demski told the Hartford Courant. Others have called him “soft spoken” and kind, “never with a bad word about anyone.” He was deeply devoted to his family, his church and his friends. One person who knew him has remarked how painfully ironic it was that a man who had survived many bombing missions with antiaircraft fire exploding around him and who was so dedicated to his community should have his life ended by an underage drinking driver paying more attention to a bottle than the road.
Arthur Vincent is buried in Calvary Cemetery, Collinsville.
“Your Silent Neighbors” introduces readers to people out of Canton’s past. Readers are encouraged to visit these gravesites and pay their respects to the people who have helped make our community what it is today.