Winifred And Hannah O’Dea Of Norwood, Alice Brady Of Walpole Among 450 Who Perished In Boston Night Club Holocaust

Mr. And Mrs. John Dixon Left Club Before Blaze

Toothache Causes Local Girl To Miss Night Club

The Cocoanut Grove after the deadly fire. (AP News, colorized by the Norwood Historical Society)

Tragic deaths of two attractive Norwood girls and their Walpole girl companion in the nation’s worst fire tragedy since 1902 in the Cocoanut Grove were reported today.

The reported dead were:
Hannah O’Dea, 27, of Norwood.
Winnifred O’Dea, 23, of Norwood.
Alice Brady, 28 of East Walpole.

A prominent Norwood couple, Mr. and Mrs. John P. Dixon, had the good fortune of leaving the night dub in Boston a few minutes before the scene of merrymaking, turned into the third-worst holocaust of this nation’s history.


A story of a lucky escape came from a Westwood home where Lucille LeClair, 22, related how Master of Ceremonies Mickey Alpert led her with a small group, away from the fire via the large ice box.

Another Norwood girl, Louise Mondor of 20 Monroe street, saw the great nightclub tragedy from the Motor Mart building, across the street. She saw frantic patrons of the Cocoanut Grove running to windows, some of them with their clothing on fire, trying to escape from the building that was a death trap to over 400. It was a scene that she will never forget.

Neither will Fireman Joseph McCormack and Patrolman Edward Feeney, rescue workers sent from Norwood, forget the scene of suffering and human agony beyond oral description. They left Norwood in the police ambulance only a few minutes after the fire was first reported.

This photo taken of the interior of the Cocoanut Grove after the fire shows the widepread devastation. (Photo colorized by the Norwood Historical Society)


The three victims had left Norwood and Walpole homes Saturday afternoon to attend the Boston College-Holy Cross football game and after the game, with hundreds of others, went to see the floor show at Cocoanut Grove. They were believed together until the end.

The O’Dea girls, daughters of Michael O’Dea of 1393 Washington street, leave behind their father, a sister, Mary, and four brothers. The brothers are Dormond and Frederick, both in the Army; Thomas, who is in the Navy; and Paul, the youngest brother.

Alice Brady is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Brady of 274 East street, East Walpole. She attended the Walpole schools and for the past nine years was employed at Bird and Son in East Walpole. She is survived by her parents, six brothers and two sisters.

Miss Brady was identified at the Northern Mortuary by her brother, Thomas Brady, Jr. Thomas was in Boston with Michael O’Dea, father of the other two victims, late yesterday when he identified his dead sister.

The brother identified her by a class ring that she was wearing. The ring had been given to her by her older sister, Mrs. Marion Cunningham of Walpole,

A fourth girl, Catherine Holland, a relative of the O’Dea sisters, was to join them in Boston that afternoon and she presumably was with them at the Grove after the game, as the girl, a Dorchester resident, is listed among the fatalities.

Sorrowing relatives of the victims were making funeral arrangements today.


When the fire started it was only minutes before the Norwood police ambulance was ready to go. The first reports of the fire were received via short-wave radio at the fire station and Fireman Leo Storme, sensing that it would be a tragedy, telephoned to the police station across the way. Patrolman William C. Jankowski, desk officer on the early night shift, prepared to send the ambulance when the call finally came in.

When the call came Norwood was ready. A message on the teletype read: “11/28/42 . .. 10:45 p.m. Emergency … to all departments … at the Cocoanut Grove . . . Broadway .. . Boston . . . There is now a bad four-alarm fire … a largo number of people have been burned . . . ambulances have been used . . . available in Boston . . . Will any Department that can, send an ambulance to the above fire.”
Hardly had the message come through when Patrolmen Jankowski reported back, “0. K. Norwood on the way”

Patrolman Edward Feeney and Fireman Joseph McCormack had been assigned and 16 minutes later they were at the scene of the fire and on duty. They were busy rushing badly burned victims to the hospitals. A couple of victims that they rushed to the Faulkner Hospital were so burned that it was impossible to ascertain if they were men or women.


The emergency unit from the Norwood Red Cross was also called into the fire scene for duty. They joined others in the gigantic task of caring for the injured, identifying victims, and countless other jobs at the gruesome tragedy.

A member of the Norwood Board of Health, John P. Dixon, a former heavyweight fighter, and Mrs. Dixon, have much to be thankful for that they are still alive and uninjured today. They went into the game and needless to say, felt unlucky after the “it-can’t-happen-hare” defeat of Boston College. Dixon was the captain of the B.C. team in the 1930-31 season. He is employed at the Bird and Son plant in East Walpole. The couple feels very lucky because they left the nightclub before the tragedy struck.

Dixon didn’t see the O’Dea girls at the club as it was rumored in Norwood yesterday afternoon. However, he said he saw the Brady girl in Walpole when she was leaving for the game in the afternoon.


A Norwood waitress escaped possible death by giving up her reservation at the Grove when she had a tooth pulled earlier in the day. Friends relate that she had a reservation to go to the Coconut Grove Saturday evening but in the afternoon she had a tooth pulled and decided she didn’t want to go out that night. She was identified as Mrs, Barbara Maguire of Norwood.

Luckiest of all from this vicinity was Miss Lucille LeClair, 22, of 37 Lakeshore Drive, Westwood. She was caught in the inferno that killed so many of the merry-makers but she was one of the fortunate to escape with only minor burns.

Miss LeClair, an employee at Boston Navy Yard, was one of the group that Master of Ceremonies Mickey Alpert helped escape from the holocaust. They first tried a door but it was believed to be bolted from the outside and then they were led into an ice-box where they got down onto the floor, breathing the cool air until a fireman came in and escorted them through a door or window. Miss LeClair wasn’t sure just which it was through which they made their escape.

(Originally published in the Norwood Messenger, November 30, 1942)