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Mark A. Fontaine

Johnston, R.I.

On the morning of the fire that took his life, Mark A. Fontaine gave his father a hug and a kiss. It was an ordinary goodbye. "He did that every time he left the house -- morning, noon, and night," Gerald Fontaine said of his 22-year-old son. Mark Fontaine, who lived with his parents in Johnston, was attending Community College of Rhode Island in Warwick and wanted to become a police officer. His sister Melanie, 25, was injured in the fire and her fiancee, John Longiaru, died, as did a cousin, Stephen Libera.

"I know that he died trying to help John get out of that place," said Vicki Kettle, manager of the Bickford's restaurant in North Providence where Fontaine had worked part time for about three years. "He would give you the shirt off his back. And you didn't just like Mark, you loved him. He was so funny and so trustworthy . . . He was just a beautiful person."

Fontaine's presence alone could restore order to the chaotic kitchen on a Saturday night, Kettle said. "We'd be going totally crazy, he'd walk in and it was just calming," she said.

"He was just naturally friendly," Gerald Fontaine said. "He was very generous."

Alice Fontaine, 88, Mark's grandmother, said she tended to favor him over her other six grandchildren. "We were very close," she said. "He was adorable. He used to rub my back and say, `I love you, Memere.' "

Kettle did not know Fontaine was going to The Station, but when she heard about the fire early Friday morning, "I had a knot in my stomach. I said, `Oh, please, God, don't let anyone I know have been there . . .' We're all heartbroken." On Thursday, as Gerald Fontaine prepared to bury his son, there was a merciful break from the mourning: Melanie, who suffered second- and third-degree burns, was released from The Miriam Hospital in Providence. "My daughter's here," he said from home. "She's coming through the door right now."