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December 10, 2018
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Updated: Dec. 10 (00:01)

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What's New at 144
Death Notice of Brother Robert DeGrace

Robert DeGrace, 71, of Key West, Florida, formerly of Brockton, passed away on October 30, 2018. Born in Fall River, he was the son of the late Joseph Sr. and Aldina (Ventura) DeGrace. Robert served in the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam War and was a firefighter at the Naval Air Station in South Weymouth. He later retired from the Brockton Fire Department. Robert was the father of Michele Harris (and Lori Achin) of Attleboro; brother of Joseph DeGrace Jr. (and Ella) of Brockton, Pauline Hayes (and Warner) of Atlanta, Michael DeGrace (and Sherie) of Brockton, David DeGrace (and Joan) of Brockton, Betty Ann DeGrace of Brockton, and Susan DeGrace of Atlanta; and an uncle of many nieces and nephews. Following cremation, all are welcome to calling hours Sat., Nov. 24th from 10 a.m. - 12 p.m., followed by a 12 p.m. memorial service in Waitt Funeral Home, 850 North Main St., Brockton. Private burial. In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be made to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital or a veteran’s cause of your choice.

Op Ed from PFFM Pres. MacKinnon

The following was an op ed to the Patriot Ledger on Saturday March 10, 2018 by PFFM Pres. Rich MacKinnon

Legislature needs to protect firefighters
In2014, Plymouth firefighter Anthony Colarusso, 38, was diagnosed with esophageal cancer; a type of cancer that a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has linked to firefighting. An 8-year veteran of the fire department, Colarusso had accrued 93 shifts of sick leave as he and his wife, Christina, faced months of doctors appointments and grueling treatments.
He very quickly exhausted his earned medical leave and vacation days.
Though his union and firefighters across the state begged the town to provide coverage for Colarusso in his time of need for a man who devoted his life to helping others in need, no aid was forthcoming.
For 93 days, he went without a paycheck or health insurance while fighting a cancer likely caused by occupational exposure. Then just 15 months after receiving his diagnosis, Anthony Colarusso, who was also a U.S. Navy veteran, died at the age of 39.
It is easy to see the dangers and health risks confronted by firefighters by reading a newspaper or simply turning on the nightly news. But, firefighters are confronted by even greater risks.
The leading cause of line of duty deaths among firefighters is cancer.
The multi-year CDC study found higher rates of certain types of cancer among firefighters than in the general population. It’s believed occupational exposure to chemicals and other toxins puts firefighters at increased risk of being diagnosed and dying from certain cancers. The study also found that firefighters were younger than expected when diagnosed with certain cancers.
Nationwide, firefighters are 9 percent more likely to be diagnosed with cancer and 14 percent more likely to die of cancer than the general public. Firefighters have a 62 percent higher risk of esophageal cancer, are diagnosed with testicular cancer and mesothelioma twice as much as the general population, and contract multiple myeloma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, leukemia, skin, brain, prostate and colon cancers almost one and a half times more frequently than non firefighters.
Cancer is a line-of-duty death for firefighters.
Over the past two years, 235 active firefighters have been diagnosed with cancer, 107 were able to return to work, 99 were forced to retire, and 29 succumbed to their illness.
While Massachusetts law acknowledges these cancers are job-related as it pertains to retirement, there is a gap in the law large enough to drive a fire engine through. A firefighter who injures a knee while fighting a fire has greater coverage and protections than one who contracts cancer from the products of that same fire. Like our fellow “jake” Anthony Colarusso, after their sick time runs out, so does their coverage.
Throughout the fire service, efforts are being made to reduce the instances of cancer that are killing our firefighters, but action must be taken to alleviate the hardships taken on by our brave brothers and sisters and their families as they work to regain their health. New practices like washing gear and decontaminating equipment and apparatus are being embraced by fire departments across the state. Additional gear and new technologies are being utilized to protect firefighters from dangerous carcinogens at fire scenes. However, nothing has been done to ensure firefighters are afforded the time and health care necessary to become well.
Legislation is now on Beacon Hill that would treat cancer among firefighters as a work-related injury. Nearly 40 states have already passed similar legislation. This important bill would put in place the necessary protections to allow firefighters with cancer, people like Anthony Colarusso, to receive the care they need without adding additional and unnecessary strains on them and their families.
For every motor vehicle accident, every overdose, every time an elder calls about something as simple as a chirping smoke detector, firefighters answer the call. It is a firefighter’s duty to protect those in need. Now firefighters need the Legislature to protect them.
Richard MacKinnon Jr. is president of the Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts.
He lives in Whitman and works for the local fire department.
COMMENTARY
RICHARD MACKINNON JR.
12th Annual Fight for Air Climb

Brockton school committee member, retired firefighter, dies at 69

By Marc Larocque

July 27. 2016 11:57AM

Brockton school committee member, retired firefighter, dies at 69

BROCKTON – Wayne McAllister, who was the first African-American to hold elected office in Brockton, is being remembered for his service as a city firefighter for more than 30 years and as a civic leader known for his frank, thoughtful stances on issues facing the community.
“The one thing I can take solace in, after his passing, is knowing how many people he’s touched and helped,” said Sara Keough, one of his daughters. “He had pride in the city. He loved it here. He was willing to do anything for the residents of the city. That was basically his passion.”
McAllister, who remained on the Brockton Planning Board and the Southeastern Regional Vocational Technical High School Committee, died surrounded by family at his Brockton home on Tuesday after a long bout with cancer. He was 69.
Keough said her father, who often got other parents involved with community endeavors, such as forming a basketball team at the Arnone School, would never be afraid to speak his mind on issues of education, diversity and access to resources. When he addressed a problem, he researched it thoroughly and didn’t mince words when giving his opinion, said Keough and others.
“He said it like it is,” Keough said. “He had a way of saying things that was direct and to the point. I wouldn’t say it was necessarily rude. But it was frank. And often it was a little funny. That took the sting off, but you got his point, which I think is what made him likable. ... He always had a way with words.”
Former colleagues at the Brockton Fire Department recalled how McAllister taught them the trade. Archie Gormley, president of the Brockton Firefighters Local 144 union, was one of several people who referred to McAllister as a mentor.
“What he meant to the younger members was, when we came on, especially myself, he was looking out for us,” Gormley said. “He took us under his wing. He showed us what it was all about. He was able to make us understand how the fire department ran, and how we should act, and how we should behave, and what are our responsibilities.”
Gormley said the Brockton Fire Department mourns the death of McAllister, who is also a veteran of the U.S. Army, for which he received an honorable discharge. Gormley also thanked McAllister for his contributions to the firefighters union, as a former vice president for Local 144.
“It’s a loss for all us,” Gormley said. “I learned a lot from him, not only about being a firefighter, but about union representation ... to protect all our benefits and everything that firefighters fought for in the past. ... He was a great community activist.”
Gormley said too many firefighters are dying from cancer.
“People don’t realize this, but that’s the one disease that’ll take most of the firefighters' lives throughout their career,” he said. “I feel very deeply about his family and their loss. We’ll continue to help them in any way we can.”
McAllister was the first African-American elected to office in Brockton, as a representative for the city on the school committee for Southeastern Regional Vocational Technical High School, said friend and fellow planning board member Ollie Spears. McAllister served as a Brockton representative on the regional school committee since 2002, and remained on the committee until his death.

As a member of the Brockton Planning Board, McAllister was among a group of public officials who were named personally as defendants in a $82.8 million lawsuit filed in 2012 by Brockton Power, after the company was blocked from building a gas-fired power plant in the city. McAllister was the only one from the group of defendants who remained in office when Brockton Power dismissed individual defendants named in the lawsuit.
McAllister was also active with the Brockton Chapter NAACP, and was a member of the mayor’s crime and drug task force. McAllister also ran unsuccessfully for the Ward 4 City Council seat in 2005.

Through it all, McAllister was a "straight shooter," Spears said.
"Wayne was a mentor to me, personally and politically," said Spears, who remains on the Brockton Planning Board. "Wayne told it how it is, didn't hold back and stood his ground. This is what I admired about him."
A wake is scheduled for this Saturday from 3 to 8 p.m. at the Russell and Pica Funeral Home, 165 Belmont St., in Brockton. A burial with U.S. military honors will be held on Monday at 11:30 a.m. at the Massachusetts National Cemetery in Bourne.

Brockton Firefighters Local 144
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