Former town councilor, arson investigator dies at 72


BURRILLVILLE – A longtime Providence firefighter who was active in town government died this month at the age of 72.

Joseph Francis Dorsey died at his home on East Wallum Lake Road on Monday, Jan. 10.

Born in Providence, Dorsey was predeceased by his parents, Marie (Heon) Dorsey and Joseph F. Dorsey and a sister, Patricia Dorsey. He is survived by his wife of 45 years, Sue Ellen (George) Dorsey; a brother, David Dorsey of Cranston; three children: Joseph D. Dorsey, Christopher Dorsey & Sean Dorsey, all of Burrillville; six grandchildren and one great grandchild.

Dorsey lived in Pascoag for 42 years, raising his family on Town Farm Road. He served on the Burrillville Town Council from 1986 to 1990, and was also involved with development of the town’s comprehensive plan, animal control, the industrial foundation, police division, public recreation center commission and zoning board of review.

“He took great interest in politics, leading him to a decade of work on the Burrillville Town Council,” noted information published Boucher Funeral Home.

Dorsey pursued his life-long career as a Providence Firefighter, beginning on the Ladder company, where he worked for 15 years before he was promoted to arson investigator, a position he held for another for 15 years. He received awards and certifications from the National Fire Academy, International Association of Arson Investigators, FBI Blast Explosions and Response and Investigation, and ATF Fire and Explosion Certifications. He received the Providence Police Academy Certification of Merit and Response to Terrorist Bombings Accreditation, and more than 50 certificates and written acknowledgements from mayors, governors, fire chiefs, lieutenants and judges, according to his family.

He retired in 2009, and had only used six days of sick time in 30 years.

Councilor Stephen Rawson acknowledged the town’s loss at the board’s meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 12.

“I think Joe’s biggest accomplishment is he was chairman of the 911 commission,” said Rawson.

The commission, Rawson noted, took on the massive project of changing house numbers and addresses to facilitate 911 services in Burrillville.

Dorsey also had a passion for riding his motorcycles, hiking and visiting the White Mountains, fishing and old TV Westerns, and was a lover of nature and animals, according to the family.

“Spending time with his three sons always made him feel complete,” noted the write up published by Boucher. “He was a humble man, always offering help to anyone in need and never wanting to ask for anything even when he himself was the one in need. He was a man of his values and couldn’t be swayed, always wholeheartedly understanding and never liked to let things escalate. He had great skill in staying calm during crisis. He carried a soft voice when talking to you and was never heard speaking bad about anyone; although he never missed a chance for a little humor or sarcasm.”

“Joseph was a ‘one of a kind’ man, who will never be forgotten and will be missed eternally, leaving nothing but legacies to look up to and aim for.”

A Mass of Christian Burial was held on Saturday, January 15 at St. Joseph’s Church. Donations in Dorsey’s name may be made to Roger Williams Park Zoo, 1000 Elmwood Ave., Providence, RI 02907 or

“He will be sadly missed by the council and the town,” Rawson said. “He served the town well.”

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