At 82, Zenkin somberly, and vividly, recalls listening to the radio on November 28, 1942, when news of a raging fire at the establishment located in Boston’s Bay Village neighborhood was first broadcast. He knew that his mother, Mary, was at the popular spot that night, and Zenkin, only 12 years old at the time, couldn’t hold back his tears as additional news reports brought further details about the tragedy. His worst fear was realized: His mother was one of the 492 people who would die as a result of the fire. He agreed, then later declined, to accompany his father, Walter Sr., to the morgue to identify his mother’s body, which was burned beyond recognition save for the wedding ring on her finger.
Read more from NFPA Journal's 2012 feature on the anniversary of the Cocoanut Grove fire, and see the website established by Boston institutions and people interested in preserving the history of the fire.