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First responders honor Newport Hospital staff with parade

Portsmouth, Tiverton, Little Compton, Bristol and others involved


NEWPORT — When Portsmouth Police Officer Bruce Celico saw tributes to healthcare workers at Kent and Miriam hospitals and Landmark Medical Center, he didn’t want Aquidneck Island’s only hospital to be overlooked. 

So he, fellow Officer JeanMarie Stewart and Newport Police teamed up to organize a parade of first responders to honor the hard work and sacrifice that employees of Newport Hospital are making in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I just thought it was only right, since we have a hospital that probably anywhere from six to eight towns come to. They need their recognition just as much as anybody else,” said Officer Celico, who lives in Little Compton. “I started bouncing some ideas around, and (Officer) Stewart had the same feeling that I did.”

They started making calls, and it blossomed into quite the cavalcade — 15 different fire and police departments, with cars and trucks from Portsmouth, Little Compton, Tiverton, Middletown, Newport, Bristol, Jamestown and the R.I. State Police. 

“It’s grown into what’s probably going to be a pretty long and loud caravan of cars and trucks,” he said before the event. “We’re definitely going to make our presence known.”

He was right.

After they all met up sometime after 2:30 p.m. at the former Newport Grand Casino — “That place is vacant, so it’s perfect,” Officer Celico said — the procession made its way up Admiral Kalbfus Road, took a right onto Broadway, and then a left onto Friendship Street and into the hospital’s back parking lot. The sirens blared as the vehicles looped the hospital twice. 

“Hopefully they’ll be spooked by all the noise and some of them will come out and see what it’s all about,” said Officer Celico, who was right again. Hospital workers slowly drifted out and, from a safe distance near the emergency department’s doorway, smiled and waved back.

‘Hits home’

Officer Celico said it’s important to show appreciation to healthcare workers, who are on the front lines of the pandemic and put themselves at risk of infection daily.

“It hits close to home for sure,” he said. “My wife (Cassie) is an ER nurse at Charlton. She’s actually been out on maternity leave; that happened just as this whole epidemic started.”

In addition, his sister-in-law is a nurse at Charlton and his brother-in-law is the emergency medical services director in Swansea. “Emergency services run deep in the family,” he said.

On Monday, not only did first responders come out to show their appreciation for healthcare workers, family members of police officers and firefighters showed up to support their participation in the parade. 

Little Compton firefighter Sam Hussey was greeted by his wife, Jessica, and 4-year-old daughter, Charlotte, who popped their heads out of their car’s sun roof while holding a sign that read “Stay Safe.” Jacob Vandal was in the passenger seat.

Officer Celico had family there as well. Cassie and their son, Liam, were hooting and hollering from a Jeep, while the couple’s newborn, Conor, was sound asleep in the back.

“Didn’t wake up once during the noise,” Officer Celico said.

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Matt Hayes, Portsmouth Times Publisher

2020 by East Bay Newspapers

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Meet our staff
Scott Pickering

Scott Pickering has been on the East Bay Newspapers team for more than two decades, since starting as a reporter for the Sakonnet Times. He's been editor of most of the papers, was Managing Editor of all the papers for many years, and became General Manager in 2012. Today he can be found posting to, steering news coverage, writing editorials, talking to readers, working with the sales team, collaborating on design, or helping do whatever it takes to get the papers out the door. Reach him at