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March 20, 2014

Salem fire captain remembered

McKenna loses five-year battle with cancer

SALEM — Stephen McKenna was the type of leader who knew how to get things done and do them right, according to his colleagues.

There were few things the veteran Salem fire captain couldn’t do — except stop the disease that ravaged his body.

McKenna, 54, died Tuesday after a five-year battle with intestinal cancer.

The community mourned the death of the popular fire official yesterday.

A prayer was read in his memory in the New Hampshire House of Representatives in Concord. Firefighters across the state also remembered their comrade, who had worked with the Keene, Westmoreland and Goffstown fire departments.

“He was well loved and respected by his troops,” Salem fire Chief Kevin Breen said. “He will be sorely missed.”

McKenna was held in such high esteem by his comrades, 54 members of the department shaved their heads in support of him last summer.

They also organized fundraisers to help his family with medical expenses. McKenna and his wife, Nancy, have two grown sons, Doug and Dan.

The Salem native was first diagnosed with cancer in 2009 and endured numerous rounds of chemotherapy. But McKenna battled through the sickness, continuing to make the daily, lengthy commute from his home in Westmoreland until a year ago.

He went on medical leave in February 2013, but last year said said he remained close to his firefighting brethren, even though he was at home resting instead of helping to manage the fire department.

When fellow firefighters shaved their heads last spring, they sent photos of themselves.

McKenna admitted then that his emotions got the best of him.

“It’s just the brotherhood — I would be doing it myself if the shoe was on the other foot,” he said last spring. “I’m not ashamed to say I had tears running down my cheeks. It means a lot.”

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