The fire department in Everett, Massachusetts, is mourning the loss of their first and only female firefighter, who died Wednesday from occupational cancer.
Fifty-six-year Susan Pipitone of Haverhill battled the disease for more than a year.
"Today we lost our one and only Active Duty female Firefighter/Engineer in the history of our department, Susan Pipitone, to Occupational Cancer ... rest easy now Sue ... we'll take it from here," read a statement on the Everett Firefighters Facebook page.
The Central Fire Station has been draped in black to honor the loss the beloved firefighter, who had been with the department since May 26, 1993.
"I think she took a tremendous amount of pride in being the first female firefighter," said Everett Fire Chief Tony Carli.
For the last dozen years, Pipitone was the driver for Engine 1.
"She loved the fire department. She loved all of us, and she had other passions. She was in a band so she loved her music, rode motorcycles, love her wife deeply, they had a real tight connection. She was just a really, really good person," said Craig Hardy, president of the Everett Firefighters Union.
Cancer is becoming a major concern for all firefighters. Coincidentally, Gov. Charlie Baker signed legislation last week that recognizes cancer as a work-related condition for Massachusetts firefighters, requiring health insurance coverage for their illness.
"This cancer is 100 percent an epidemic within our world. We lose too many too quick to the disease," said Hardy.
The loss of one firefighter to cancer and the injury of two others several weeks ago on the job is making things difficult for the city’s 100-member department.
"We lost a member of our family. We lost Sue. It's very tough, coming off the heels of our two firefighters injured on July 13. We've had a really tough month here," said Carli.
A wake for Pipitone is scheduled for Friday from 4-8 p.m at Rocco's Funeral Home in Everett. Fellow firefighters will hold a uniformed walk through ahead of the service. Pipitone's beloved Engine 1 will also be a part of the service.
Funeral services will be held at the funeral home Saturday at a 10 a.m. A Firefighter Honor Guard will conclude services at Woodlawn Cemetery.
Pipitone leaves behind her wife of 18 years, Darlene Braley; her mother, Fran Pipitone; a brother; a sister; a niece; two nephews and an extended family.