Chuck Shipulski, who spent four decades working for the town’s Fire Department, dies at 72
During his 40 years working at the Saugus Fire Department up until early 2013, fellow firefighters addressed Charles (Chuck) Russell Shipulski by his nickname – “Coach.” Shipulski was indeed respected as a dedicated coach of youth sports, including Saugus Youth Hockey, Saugus Pop Warner and Saugus National Little League. But young and inexperienced firefighters he worked with during his long and illustrious career looked up to him as a great mentor who was always willing to share his expertise.
Fire Captain William Cross said that although Shipulski had retired from the department approximately 10 years ago, it was a sad time for the department after attending his wake Tuesday night.
“The best word to describe him was he was a ‘Saugus guy,’” Cross said. “He loved being from Saugus.”
Cross knew Shipulski since he was young, noting he was always talented, playing guitar and involved in carpentry. He had talked to him a few weeks ago.
The legendary firefighter, who served under five Saugus Fire Chiefs, died unexpectedly last week (Thursday, Aug. 11) with his family by his side. He was 72.
Fire Chief Michael Newbury said Shipulski’s career spanned nearly five decades. “He was a great firefighter but was also part of the fabric of the community,” Newbury said Wednesday. “He coached all his kids in sports.”
Newbury added that Shipulski lived right on Main Street; thus, people always stopped by daily, and he was never able to get any yard work done. He worked tirelessly at any emergency scene and was awarded many commendations, according to Newbury.
Shipulski leaves his wife of 53 years, Karen (Sheldon) Shipulski; his children, Kristin Shipulski of Saugus, Kara Shipulski of North Reading and Jason and his wife Kristy Shipulski of Melrose; his grandchildren, Ben and Charlie Cooper of North Reading and Kiley Shipulski of Melrose; his brother Edward Shipulski of Methuen; his sister, Jane Terranova, and her husband, John, of Methuen. He was predeceased by his parents Edward and Dorothy Shipulski and his brother Daniel Shipulski.
A Funeral Mass was held on Wednesday (Aug.17) at St. Theresa’s Church in North Reading. The Bisbee-Porcella Funeral Home of Saugus was in charge of arrangements. In lieu of flowers donations may be made in his memory to the Saugus Firefighters Relief Association (https://saugusfirereliefassociation.com).
Shipulski was a lifelong resident of Saugus. A 1967 graduate of Saugus High School, he played numerous sports, including football, baseball and later softball.
After graduation, he worked in the construction field. But his father-in-law’s brother, who happened to be a firefighter, urged Shipulski to seek a career change to the local fire service. He passed the exam in 1972 and soon joined the Saugus Fire Department.
Shipulski was a true hometown hero and received several commendations for saving lives in the line of duty. He was the 2007 recipient of the Thomas R. Linskey Award of Merit – the Fire Department’s most prestigious award – which recognizes meritorious service and heroic acts.
The Saugus Board of Selectmen honored him with a citation in May 2008 for saving a girl’s life while he was off duty. While having dinner, Shipulski’s daughter noticed a neighbor who was running around in distress – the victim of an apparent drug overdose. Shipulski revived the girl by administering CPR.
Selectman Jeff Cicolini said Tuesday that Shipulski was a wonderful guy and a pleasure to talk to. “I always enjoyed our conversations about the status of the town and of local sports teams in Dunkin’ Donuts,” Cicolini said. “My heartfelt condolences go out to his entire family; may he rest in eternal peace.”
Selectwoman Corinne Riley called Shipulski a decorated and highly respected Saugus firefighter for 40 years. “Simply put, he was a hero here in Saugus, and as a first responder could be relied upon in emergencies,” Riley said on Tuesday. “I was very saddened to hear of his passing.”
Riley added that the Shipulskis are wonderful people in town, and her heartfelt condolences go out to Karen, Kristen and the rest of his family, noting that he will be sorely missed.
Selectwoman Debra Panetta said Shipulski received many awards for going above and beyond, adding that he was deeply involved with the town. “My sincere condolences to his family,” Panetta said, adding that she met him a few times.
Shipulski and Lt. Joe Champoux were credited with risking their own lives to save another in their response to a house fire on Memorial Day in 1976. He recognized the burning house as the home of a High School friend. The two firefighters rushed into the home without their oxygen masks to rescue his friend’s father – who was trapped on the second floor and unable to call for help because he was deaf and mute. Shipulski and Champoux responded to a rattling doorknob, kicked down the door and rescued the man. For that, they received department commendations for bravery and saving the man’s life.
In addition to his firefighting career, Shipulski was a talented carpenter who worked on many homes throughout New England. During the summer months he enjoyed spending time at his cottage on Newfound Lake in New Hampshire, which he rebuilt himself.