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Jeff's Battle Ends
Updated On: Nov 06, 2012

Cancer claims second city firefighter since December

Top Photo
Jeff Bokum was a 9.5-year veteran of the Portsmouth Fire Department.Courtesy photo

PORTSMOUTH — Firefighter Jeff Bokum, a 9½-year veteran of the city department, died Wednesday after a six-month battle with cancer.

His death came just months after firefighters laid to rest fellow firefighter Sarah Fox, who died in December 2011 after her own battle with cancer.

Fire Chief Christopher LeClaire called Bokum's death a major loss for the local firefighting community.

"It's a tragedy, someone being taken from us at such a young age," LeClaire said.

LeClaire recalled Bokum as being a "quality individual" who was a good employee.

"He got along great with the guys," said LeClaire. "He certainly performed all of the functions of a firefighter well and he will be missed."

Bokum, 39, was diagnosed in late November 2011 with neuroendocrine cancer, a rare form of the disease that affected his liver and thyroid.

After undergoing treatment in Houston, Texas, at MD Anderson Center, Bokum moved to Bridgton Hospital in Maine, where he died Wednesday.

Russell Osgood, vice president of the Portsmouth Fire Fighters Charitable Association, said the Fire Department learned of Bokum's death at about 1:30 p.m.

He said the result was a very somber mood at the firehouse throughout the day.

"He was a good friend to everyone," he said. "He's going to be missed dearly."

Osgood credited Bokum with always having a positive outlook on life. He said, as early as last week, Bokum was talking about how eager he was to return to the fire service.

"He was really looking forward to beating (cancer)," Osgood said.

Osgood said the loss of another member of the department comes much too soon.

"We didn't expect this," he said. "We were hopeful he would beat it."

Osgood said he is working with Bokum's family on the details of a funeral.

Fire Capt. Todd Germain, who knew Bokum from his start at the Fire Department, said the news hit hard for many of the firefighters Wednesday.

"There's a lot of heavy hearts around the fire house," he said.

Germain recalled Bokum as an avid golfer who loved hockey and was dedicated to his job.

"If you needed something done, you knew you could look to Jeff — and you wouldn't have to tell him; he'd know what to do," said Germain. "He was invaluable to us."

Germain said it will take the firefighters time to recover from this latest loss.

"I remember seeing him standing there and walking around the fire house, getting on the truck and heading out for a call," he said. "It's surreal to think he's not going to be doing that anymore."

Bokum's positivity throughout his battle with cancer stood out for Germain, as well.

"As early as last Wednesday, he was telling us how he'd be back to work in October," Germain said. "He was positive right to the end."

Portsmouth Fire Fighters Charitable Association
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