Son of victim proposes memorial for Pioneer Hotel Fire - Tucson News Now

Son of victim proposes memorial for Pioneer Hotel Fire

(Source: Tucson News Now) (Source: Tucson News Now)
TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

When Paul d'Hedouville was four years old when he lost his father to the Pioneer Hotel Fire on Dec. 20, 1970, one of 29 killed in the worst single tragedy in Tucson history.

His father, a lawyer, was in Tucson from Washington, D.C., working on a case when he was informed they would be working through the holidays.

So he booked a suite at the hotel and informed the family they would all celebrate Christmas in Tucson.

He bought a Christmas tree and presents.

However, his 3-month-old son had developed an ear infection and was not allowed to travel. The family would have to wait a few days before joining him in Tucson.

The day never came.

"It's something you endure as you go on throughout life," d'Hedouville said standing in the shadow of the Pioneer Building. "But there's still a part of me that's still a 4-year-old boy standing at the living room window thinking dad's still going to be coming home."

d'Hedouville wants others to remember too, not just the 29 souls as he calls them, but the firefighters who saved so many other lives that night.

"The Tucson firefighters are my heroes," he said. "I wanted to be a firefighter."

He's met many of the firefighters who were at the blaze and has become friends with many of them who have recounted the night's events to him.

"I never imagined they'd break down the way they have," he said. "That was a time we didn't think much of PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder)." 

Now, he'd like to build a memorial to remember those who died and those who fought the blaze even though it was a long time ago.

The fire has been a sore point for some people in Tucson who consider it best forgotten but d'Hedouville said he has not received any negative feedback from the nearly 300 people he has talked to about the fire and the proposed memorial.

"I would say to try to forget history, history never occurred and to deny that, is irresponsible to future generations," he said. "Even though it's painful, it's something we can't deny."

Tucson's Mayor Jonathan Rothschild supports a memorial and believes it needs to be remembered as well.

"It's a big part of Tucson's history," the mayor said. "I think it would be a great idea."

The mayor has proposed the memorial be placed in Jocame Park just across the street from the Pioneer Building.

The design is still in the early stages as is the potential funding but d'Hedouville says he has had corporate interest.

He would like to complete it and dedicate it on the 50th anniversary of the fire and his father's death, Dec. 20, 2020.

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