SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – The Savannah community is remembering the life and legacy of Savannah Fire Captain Matt Kelly. At the time of his death, he was the second cancer diagnosis in three months at the department, and this week, he is the focus of reflection.
It all comes one year after Capt. Kelly died from Stage 4 pancreatic cancer.
“He was one of the good ones,” said Jeffrey Hobart, a co-worker and fellow member of the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) Union. “He told you how it was. He ruffled feathers. He wasn’t afraid to put it out there and that’s part of what made him so good.”
Hobart says Kelly was good too for his sharp wit and dedication to a 25-year career at Savannah Fire Rescue.
Tyler Carlson, another co-worker, fellow union member, and family friend, says her close relationship and admiration for the late captain mirrors Hobart’s.
“He loved his job and you could definitely tell,” she said of the way Capt. Kelly used to carry himself.
This week also marks the anniversary of a memorial service for Capt. Kelly when the department made his workplace — Rescue 1 — his namesake and passed a uniform father to son.
Cpt. Kelly left behind a wife, son and stepson.
“I was devastated…still am,” said Carlson. “I do miss him being around here and just seeing him every day, but you know, cancer sucks.”
Hobart says Kelly’s death hit him during the memorial service and even more during a visit to his gravesite. Kelly, like Hobart, is from the New England area.
“I left a Savannah Fire shirt, paid my respects, and that hurt, that broke me down,” explained Hobart.
Since then, Kelly is remembered through shirts that say ‘wicked strong’ and pay homage to his New England roots. He’s also honored through a commitment by his former co-workers to act as professionally he did.
“We trust each other that we’re going to do thte job and we’re going to do it right and that’s why we develop a brotherhood, a strength, a bond and Matt was amazing at developing that with people,” said Hobart.
Firefighters are exposed to dangerous toxins every day which makes them more likely to develop certain types of cancer. The disease has now killed three firefighters in the past six years.