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March 19. 2014 7:34PM

Cancer takes life of Salem firefighter

SALEM — Salem Fire Department Capt. Stephen McKenna, who has been battling cancer since 2009, died on Tuesday evening.

McKenna, 54, was appointed to the Salem Fire Department in 2003 and rose through the ranks to the position of captain.

He was diagnosed with Stage 3 cancer in his digestive tract in 2009.

McKenna leaves behind his wife, Nancy, and two sons, Doug and Dan.

“He was appointed to the Salem Fire Department on January 26, 2003, and promoted through the ranks of paramedic, lieutenant, station officer, and captain/shift commander,” said Fire Chief Kevin Breen. “He was the rescue program coordinator at the New Hampshire Fire Academy for many years, a member of the Urban Search and Rescue Massachusetts Task Force 1, and a past member of the Keene and Westmoreland fire departments.”

Breen and local firefighters’ union president Brian Murray said the thoughts and prayers of the department were with McKenna’s wife and his two sons.

“Steve touched many lives throughout his career, and his passing will leave a large void in the New Hampshire fire service community,” said Breen.

Breen stated that wake and funeral service arrangements for McKenna would be announced when they were available.

McKenna was diagnosed with the Stage 3 cancer and underwent intensive surgery where doctors removed sections of his duodenum, pancreas and stomach.

After the surgery and chemotherapy, McKenna returned to the fire station, but the cancer returned to his lungs and then his liver and he had been on medical leave since February of last year.

Firefighters from Salem and surrounding communities rallied around McKenna and held a number of fundraisers to help with his medical expenses.

Before a major fundraiser last June, assistant Salem Fire Chief Paul Parisi described his friend and fellow firefighter as someone who truly loved his firefighter brothers and sisters.

“He told me he felt like he’s never worked a day in his life, because he loves every moment spent at the fire station,” Parisi

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