COLUMN: The loss of a friend

Mark Spensley
Express Co-Publisher

     Life isn’t always fair. It knocks you down, forces you to get back up and continue on. Those lessons are hard to live with, hard to accept and tests you in ways you never expected.

     Last week a good friend of mine passed away, Don McCarthy. I’ve known Don for close to 30 years. Most of those years having been spent together on the Monticello Fire Department.

     Don’s family and friends stood by his side as he fought pancreatic cancer for 21 months. And fight it he did. Whenever Don was around us at the fire department, he never asked that we treat him any differently. He took part in training, attended most of the calls, even when he wasn’t feeling the best, and gave us the leadership we needed throughout his sickness.

     Over the past 21 months we have laughed, shed a tear or two and loved Don and his family the best we could. Our community also came together on his behalf multiple times. The support was unbelievable.

     For me, Don was an inspiration. Not just because of how hard he fought his illness but for many other reasons, that go way back, before he ever became ill.

     His leadership skills as the Monticello Fire Chief were second to none. Don had big shoes to fill when he became our chief. He filled those shoes and then some. One of the traits I so admired about Don was his willingness to listen to his fellow firefighters and use that information to figure out the best way to fight a fire or extract a victim from a dangerous situation.

     His calmness on scene is another example of his leadership skills. And he always made sure his guys were safe at all times. I could go on and on about Don as our chief or the years he spent as our training officer.

     But for me, to really capture what Don was about, all you have to do his look at his family. The McCarthy family shares a special bond. The love they have for each other, the closeness and respect, you don’t always see that with families.

     Don and Pam had a special relationship. Morgan, Tyler and Courtney looked up to their father with respect, love and admiration.

     There are a few people in my life, outside of my family, that have made a difference in my life. People who made me work a little harder, complain a little less, love a little more. Don is one of those people and for that I will be forever grateful. #25.



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