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October 07, 2015
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Globe Article on Sen. Tom Kennedy

Thomas Kennedy, state senator from Brockton, dies at 63

State Senator Thomas P. Kennedy, a Brockton Democrat who overcame a crippling injury as a young man, died Sunday after battling health issues. He was 63.

Kennedy was 19, studying to become a priest in upstate New York, when he fell while washing windows after his ladder gave way. He broke his neck and would use a wheelchair for the rest of his life. He returned to his native Brockton after the accident and took a job as ombudsman under then-Mayor David Crosby.

Kennedy told the Globe, in a 2008 interview, that the work was life-altering. “It made me feel I was worth something to someone somewhere,” he recalled. “At that time, I wasn’t able to do anything. I could barely write my name.”

Kennedy won a seat on the Brockton City Council in 1977. Six years later, he prevailed in a 10-person race for state representative.

In 2008, he ran unopposed for the state Senate.

Kennedy was an advocate for the disabled, but told the Globe in 2008 that he did not try to seize the issue. “When I came here, I looked around and saw there have been people who have been deeply involved in the rights of disabled for years,” he said. “I have no business coming in and challenging them for the leadership role.”

It was unclear Monday morning what the cause of death was. Kennedy had been fighting cancer before he died.

Beacon Hill leaders remembered Kennedy fondly Monday.

“Tom’s perseverance in overcoming his disabilities served as an inspiration for all those who knew him and for many more who are also working to surmount their own challenges in life,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “The people of Massachusetts are better off thanks to his faithful and admirable service to his community and constituents over the last 30 years. My thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends and colleagues during this difficult time.”

Senate President Stanley C. Rosenberg said in a statement, “On behalf of the members of the Senate, we are deeply saddened by the passing of Senator Tom Kennedy.” He called the senator “a great friend, colleague, and public servant” who “devoted his life to serving the people of his community and was proud of his working class roots.”

“Today we mourn the loss of our friend and colleague Senator Thomas Kennedy,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo, in a statement, recalling him as a “kind and decent man who I could rely on for advice and counsel.”

Death Notice of Senator Thomas P. Kennedy
Senator Thomas P. Kennedy August 15, 1951 - June 28, 2015 Online Obituaries Senator Thomas P. Kennedy, of Brockton, passed away Sunday, June 28, 2015 at the Signature Healthcare Brockton Hospital. Complete obituary to follow. Funeral Information Funeral from the Russell & Pica Funeral Home, 165 Belmont St., (Rt123) Brockton on Tuesday, July 7th at 9:30AM thence to St. Edith Stein/St. Edward Parish, 71 East Main St., Brockton where a funeral mass will be celebrated for the repose of his soul at 11:00AM. Interment will take place in St. Francis Cemetery, Maitland, Hants County, Nova Scotia at a later date. Calling hours in the Russell & Pica Funeral Home on Sunday from 1:00-6:00PM and Monday from 3:00-8:00PM
Firefighter cancer rates should spur further action

Firefighter cancer rates should spur further action

An analysis of the health records of nearly 30,000 firefighters in three major American cities reaffirmed the conclusions of numerous smaller studies — professional firefighters have higher incidences of many cancers than the general population.

At this point the evidence seems incontrovertible.

"Compared with the U.S. population, we found small to moderate increases in risk for several cancer sites and for all cancers combined, stemming mostly from excess malignancies of the respiratory, digestive and urinary systems in otherwise healthy individuals," reports the Center for Disease Control's National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, in a study released in October. "Our findings are consistent with previous studies and strengthen evidence of a relation between firefighters' occupational exposure and cancer."

The study also found a strong link between firefighter exposure to asbestos and malignant mesothelioma.

"Given that asbestos is the only known causal agent for malignant mesothelioma, and firefighter exposures are probable, the excess is likely to be a causal association."

Since we accept the scientific findings linking firefighting to increased cancer risk, and since we highly value the service firefighters provide our communities, we accept that society has a responsibility to help firefighters mitigate the risk and, when cancer is diagnosed, to help firefighters and their families deal with it in the best way possible.

Mitigation, we expect, will prove less complicated than remediation.

Last Sunday we reported on local cancer risk mitigation efforts being led by Portsmouth Fire Lt. Russ Osgood and Dave Lang at the Professional Fire Fighters Association.

Osgood became passionate about firefighter cancer risk after seeing two of his colleagues, Sarah Fox and Jeff Bokum, die from cancer in 2011 and 2012. Now he is working with others in the state to educate firefighters about proper use of protective gear and the need to thoroughly wash after exposure to toxic chemicals at a fire scene. He notes that firefighters have no idea what toxins they're exposed to during a fire.

"You have no idea — maybe it's a meth lab, maybe it's a bunch of computers burning, you never know," he told Seacoast Sunday. "A car fire is a toxic soup. You've got rubber and plastic and foam and all that stuff burning. You see that heavy black smoke — well that smoke is unburned product."

"The reality is guys are going to get cancer and you've got to support them," Osgood said.

In 1987, the New Hampshire Legislature passed a law that presumed for the purpose of worker's compensation that all firefighter cancers were work related. That law was later found to be unconstitutional because it was an unfunded mandate. Now, in an attempt to help the law pass constitutional muster, Portsmouth state Rep. Laura Pantelakos intends to submit a bill for this legislative session to fully fund worker's compensation for firefighters with cancer.

While we agree with the intent of Pantelakos' bill, we certainly think the state owes it to taxpayers to assess the full costs of such a program to determine whether or not it is financially feasible. Exactly which firefighters would qualify and under which specific circumstances would need to be clearly spelled out. The success or failure of such a bill will be in its details.

If enhanced worker's compensation proves impractical we strongly urge Pantelakos and her legislative colleagues to explore other means of providing financial protection to the men and women in our fire departments who provide such a vital and often life-saving service to our communities.

Kids Christmas Party 2013

The Kid's Christmas Party Committee would like to thank all the members and family that helped in a successful day.  

Happy Holidays

The Plot Against Pensions
Brockton Firefighters Local 144
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