Boston, MA Cocoanut Grove Club Fire, Nov 1942

Cocoanut Grove Night Club Fire from Front View Of Building Side View of Building Memorial Plaque Memorial Plaque




Lowell -- With scores of charred bodies remaining unidentified in Boston morgues, Greater Lowell had already counted 10 dead and one missing in the horrible holocaust enacted at the Cocoanut Grove club Saturday night, as the tragic list kept mounting early this afternoon.

Greater Lowell Victims.
KELLY, MARY E., 21 Myrtle street, Lowell.
ROGERS, MILDRED, 50 Varnum street, Lowell.
FITZGERALD, Private HENRY T., 29, Lake street, Wilmington.
FITZGERALD, JAMES J., 39, Lake street, Wilmington.
FITZGERALD, JOHN A., 41, Lake street, Wilmington.
FITZGERALD, Wilfrid A., 31, Lake street, Wilmington.
LOWE, GEORGE T., 45, Frost road, Tyngsboro.
QUINLAN, Sergt, JOHN J., Burnap street, Wilmington.
ALTIERI, Private FRED L., Fort Devens.
ADLER, Private MILTON DAVID, Fort Devens.

PEAVEY, JANE, daughter of Col. HARRY C. PEAVEY, Fort Devens.

GOODWIN, JAMES, U. S. Coast Guard, Woburn street, North Wilmington, rescue worker.

Other Victims Well Known Here.
AMBROSE, MARION, 42 Fine street, Winchester.
GRIFFIN, HELEN C., 330 Primrose street, Haverhill.
WELCH, HELEN, 28 Lebanon street, Winchester.
(All Lowell State Teachers' College graduates)
GILBRIDE, CAROLYN, 20, 44 Grant road, Swampscott.
DEE, ANNA, 10 Bromfield street, West Somerville, also a Lowell State Teachers' College graduate.

The pall of grief arising from the unprecedented catastrophe, spread to the families of two Lowell young women, four Wilmington brothers, a Wilmington army sergeant and a Tyngsboro World War veteran. In addition, Lowell relatives and friends mourned the deaths of four young women living in other communities, but well know here as a result of attendance at the Lowell State Teachers' college. At least two Fort Devens soldiers also died.

Six of the local victims were members of a party of 12 men and women, only one of the whom was saved. There included MARY E. KELLY, 21 Myrtle street; MILDRED ROGERS, 50 Varnum street, and HARRY, JAMES, JOHN and WILFRID FITZGERALD of Lake street, Wilmington.
The town of Wilmington bore the brunt of Greater Lowell's losses, for in addition to the four FITZGERALD brothers, Sergt, JOHN J. QUINLAN of Burnap street, Wilmington, stationed at Fort Devens, also died in the club fire. MISS ROGERS was principal of a Wilmington grade school.
Late reports placed among the missing and probably dead, the name of MISS JANE PEAVEY, daughter of Col. and MRS. HARRY C. PEAVEY of Fort Devens. MISS PEAVEY'S father, dental chief at the fort, was leading a search for his this noon, with but scant hope of finding her alive.
Two Fort Devens soldiers were definitely placed among the dead. Officials gave their names as Private First Class FRED L. ALITERI and Private MILTON DAVID ADLER, the former a resident of Somerville. ADLER'S home city was not known at press time.
Several other Fort Devens officers and soldiers may also have lost their lives, and a thorough check was being made today.

Well-known here and all dead, are: The MISSES MARION AMBROSE, 42 Fine street, Winchester; HELEN WELCH, 28 Lebanon street, Winchester; CAROLYN GILBRIDE, 44 Grant road, Swampscott and HELEN C. GRIFFIN, 330 Primrose street, Haverhill. They were graduates of the local Teachers' college. Several have local relatives. Injured, is MISS ANNA DEE of 10 Bromfield street, West Somerville, also widely known and a former Teachers' college student.
The World War veteran who survived German bullets and shells, only to succumb in the Boston fire, was GEORGE T. LOWE, 45, of Frost road, Tyngsboro recently moved to Boston, where he was working at the navy yard.
LOWE'S sister, MRS. JULIA THOMPSON or read 238 Appleton street, heard her own name called out in reports yesterday as being among the dead. The case of mistaken identity caused many calls to come to her home and was apparently the result of her name being found on her brother's body.
The most tragic episode in the greater-Lowell area, was the near wiping-out of a party of 12 persons who had gathered at the club to fete the home-coming for the Thanksgiving holiday of two soldiers, Pvt. HENRY FITZGERALD of Wilmington and Pvt. ROBERT HORRIGAN of Turners Falls.
This group, comprising of six men and six young women, went to the club only a short time before fire broke out. All perished, with the exception of Pvt. HORRIGAN, who lies gravely injured in a Boston hospital.
Throughout the city and its suburbs, grief was widespread. For the first time since Pearl Harbor war was only a secondary topic. The city actually appeared stunned, although the tragedy occurred more than 25 miles away.
Lowell contributed the use of its patrol wagon, converted into an ambulance and several rescue workers while Wilmington supplied its own ambulance and a number of workers, one of whom was injured. He was JAMES GOODWIN, a member of the U. S. coast guard, who was hurt while aiding in removing victims. GOODWIN is belived to be the only Greater Lowell person injured.



Cocoanut Grove Fire/ Dottie Myles

My aunt was Dottie Myles,/Dorothy Metzger was her real name. She also sang Irish songs under the name Dorothy McManus She lived until the late 1960's. She was an amazing woman. Her voice was amazing. She played the best boogy piano I ever heard when I was a kid,even though her hands were burned terrible and somewhat dis formed from the burns. She always wore long sleeves, My sister and I would love to sit at the piano with her while she sang and played. Some of my fondest memories as a kid. She had a great sense of humor and was a very good artist. She always dressed very stylishly. She resided in NY. I see some comments that have facts wrong, just wanted to put the story straight. She continued to sing, had a show on the radio, had a column in the newspaper. and also was a hostess/singer in a club. She did have a daughter. . She was a very determined woman and who had more courage than most. This was the first time my grandmother let her go to booking with out her, out of state. They resided in NY at the time.If she had not been in this fire, her career would of been limitless. There is no doubt in my mind that she would of been famous for her voice, instead of this tragedy. The entire family was very talented, her sister was a model and beauty contestant. Her brother, (my father) was an ad executive and did so many national branding. At the time, According to my parents, Jimmy Dorsey was considering adding her as his singer.

Ruth Knox


My name is Skip McCormack. Yours is an old posting so I hope it is still viable.

Mary Ellen McCormack, known as "Mae" would have been my aunt. Mae was the daughter of Edward "Knocko" and Mary T. McCormack and the brother of Jacko and Eddie, "Bubba" McCormack. Mae and Ruth were close friends and tragically died together at the Coconut Grove. My Dad Eddie, "Bubba" McCormack, (all South Boston guys during this time period had nicknames), was the brother of Mae who had a relationship with Ruth. I don't know if they were actually engaged, but they were definitely boyfriend and girlfriend.

I have been in contact with a friend of my Dad's named Abner, now in his 90s, who was friends with my Dad, Mae, Ruthie, (as she was known) and Emily Ruplis, my Mom. Around Thanksgiving. we exchanged emails, and I expressed my feelings that it was a bittersweet holiday, because a newspaper article in the Boston Globe recounted the Coconut Grove tragedy. I noted my sadness that I had never met my Aunt Mae. He responded that the South Boston community was devastated about the loss of Mae McCormack and Ruthie Knox. The name Ruthie Knox struck a bell, so I asked him about her. This was his unvarnished response:

Hi Skip..On the corner of 6th and Farragut Road there used to be a place called The Sea Breeze..Ice cream Frappes and Hotdogs only.... Fried Clams and French fries were the goodies across the road at Kelly's.The Breeze had a Wurlitzer and a large wooden floor where we could sneek in a dance .In our middle to late teens we hung out there,One day a bunch of gals from a super section of Southie close to Carson Beach came to the Breeze,They were from Ticknor Street and we called them the Ticknor Street Debs,A real good looking passel of females.Bubba's manor and all american good looks was the most looked at.Emmie was among the group and I believe she decided that was her target.Bubba was very popular but no gal owned him.One day Bubba showed up with a flaming gorgeous Red Head Ruthie Knox.From then on she was" numero uno".She hit it off very well with Aunt Mae and they went shopping and stuff like that.We were sure that they would eventually end up married.I think Grandma Mae wanted him to marry an Irish girl. Bubba and Ruthie went what we called "steady "Now that left Emmie sad I am sure but she still was part of our click and went to parties and dances as we had many dance halls in the immediate area. I can't remember if Bubba doubled dated with any of our group.I guess it was some of Ruthie's friends,Then of course WWII came and it broke up the whole gang with most of the Wildcat Football team joining the service on Dec. 8 1941.We were at the recruiting office on the night of Dec,7..Navy .....I did not see too much of Bubba or did I know of his Love life.Two days before the Coconut Grove disaster I came up from the Cape[Sandwich] where I was stationed with a Buddy from Fall River and one of the joints we hit was the Grove,We heard about the fire a couple of days later but did not know Mae and Ruthie were victims.Writing to one of my 4f friends I learned that Emmie and Bubba were a couple and that Bubba had gone to Annapolis.

So Maura that is what I know about Ruth Knox and her relationship with my Dad, Eddie "Bubba" McCormack. He married "Emmie Ruplis" in 1946 and I am a product of that union. By the way, my Mom was Lithuanian, which was a strike against her in the eyes of my Dad's family.

I do not have any pictures of Ruthie, but I note from an eye witness account that Ruthie was "a flaming gorgeous red head".

Like all who lost loved ones at the Coconut Grove, i am deeply saddened by that tragedy and the people who were lost at such a young age. I hope this information provides you with some insight into the life of your relative Ruthie Knox and her relationship with my Aunt Mae and my Dad, "Bubba" McCormack.

Skip McCormack

Henry rivoire was my

Henry rivoire was my grandfathers brother. Don't know anything else abouthim

cocoanut Grove Fire

Hi Marie: As Nov.28 draws near I checked this site, and found your message. Would like to talk to you, if possiable. I tried the E-mail you gave but comes back returned. I checked the list, and she was the only Sullivan listed Quincy. My e-mail is We also have skype. Louise

Cocoanut Grove Fire - Dedication

Hello All,
On Saturday, November 30, 2013, at 10:30 AM, Mayor Tom Menino, will dedicate and unveil a new street at the corner of Piedmont Street and Shawmut Street Extension, which is the location of the Cocoanut Grove, to Cocoanut Grove Lane. We have invited former employees and patrons who were at the Cocoanut Grove on that night of Nov. 28, 1942. On behalf of Dr. Ken Marshall and local resident, Paul Miller, the members of the preservation committee, we are so pleased that Mayor Menino and his staff have supported this effort to preserve this historic event and honor the 492 people who lost their lives and the many who lived. We invite all friends and families, who have contact with the Cocoanut Grove as well as the general public.

coconut grove fire 1942

My grandfather was Walter g.Jones.the Boston patrol officer who saved many lives that night because he knew of the rear stage door. He was able to open it and allow many to escape the flames and certain death.

Johnny Cobb

My mother was a live-in maid for the Cobb's at the time of Johnny's death. She told me that Mrs. Cobb died of unresolved grieve after losing Johnny, within a couple of years. My mother stayed on with Fred Cobb, and before his remarrying to Amanda Smyth about 1945.
During the mid 50's we visited the Cobb's every Christmas eve and that was a real treat for us.

The late Ruth Knox

Hi Maura

I am the youngest daughter of the late Edward Knox who passed away in 2008 of lymphoma. Ruth was my fathers sister who died tragically that night at the Grove. My father never spoke about what had happened to his sister that night I don't think he ever quite dealt with her death. My mother did save the news article of that night and had only one photo of Ruth. I don't know if this will help you in any way but to my recollection Ruth much resembled her mother Kay. Sadly my mother passed away in August of 2009 and I do not know where that picture of Ruth ended up.

Sorry I could not have been more helpful. I hope you have since found the picture you are looking for.

Kathi Knox Tedesco

Coconut Grove Fire

Hi Louise,

Sorry to hear about your aunt. My grandfather's first cousin also perished in the Cocoanut Grove Fire. My father was 15 at the time. He does not remember her first name but her last name was Sullivan and her family lived in Quincy.
After doing research on the fire to determine my grandfather's cousin's first name, I found your 2 posts. My father's name is John Henson and so was his father and grandfather. (My grandfather and father lived in New York City).
Was your grandmother's maiden name Henson? It may be possible that you are my father's second cousin. Please email me to let me know. I have old photos taken in Quincy. My email is

Thank you,

Jean Marie

Ruth Knox / Mary Ellen McCormack

It's possible Mary Ellen was the daughter of "Knocko" McCormack of South Boston, who was a longtime Boston politician. It is fsamously recorded that at his daughter's wake, Knocko punched Mayor Maurice Tobin in the face when Tobin came to shake hands with him. THis was because it was widely thoguht that Tobin allowed the Cocoanut Grove to shirk safety laws through patronage.
Also, I'm not absolutely sure, but the Mary Ellen McCormack public housing in South Boston may be named after her.
Hope this helps.