Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Cleveland Community Hero of 2010

On Nov. 7, 2009, four people were killed in a fire at a boarding house on West 32nd Street. Neighbors credited Ray Vivier with alerting his fellow tenants, enabling five to escape, before he fell victim to the blaze and later died. Investigators determined the fire was caused by arson and three Cleveland men were subsequently charged and convicted in connection with it.
Haraz Ghanbari heard about Vivier's death from Ernie Fesco, Ghanbari's best friend from their days at Kent State University. Fesco and his wife, Jody, had befriended Vivier while volunteering at a local soup kitchen, and invited him to their wedding. 

Ghanbari, 29, briefly met Vivier at the wedding and discovered that the 61-year-old had been a Marine. "We kind of hit it off," recalled Ghanbari, formerly of Bay Village. 

Ghanbari, a former sergeant in the Ohio Army National Guard and currently a Navy Reserve ensign, decided he wasn't going to let that happen. 

"I just felt it was important to honor Ray, number one for his service to our country, and his heroic act of going back into a burning house to try to save his friends," Ghanbari recently said. "I lost a lot of sleep thinking there has got to be something I could do for this guy." 

So he did. 

For the next two months Ghanbari tracked down members of Vivier's family living in other states, obtained the man's military service records, got the family's permission for cremation and arranged the details, set up a funeral and burial with full military honors for Vivier at Arlington National Cemetery, asked Cleveland police to keep the family posted about the arson investigation, was able to get a last-minute flight for one of Vivier's five children in Arizona so he could attend the funeral and finally . . . 

On Jan. 22, formally presented Vivier's memorial U.S. flag to his daughter during ceremonies at Arlington in what he would later describe as "one of the most exhausting, emotional and rewarding days of my life." 

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