My condolences to Nancy, Dan & Doug on the passing of Steve. He will be missed.
Good Morning, My name is Kevin Breen and I have the honor of serving as Chief of Salem Fire Department. It has been nearly one week since we received word that our brother, Captain Stephen J. McKenna was called home after a long arduous battle with cancer.
In the past couple of years and specifically, this past week, I have been reminded of why the fire service is so very special. The outpouring of support we have received from every corner of this state and the entire New England region has been nothing less than remarkable. On behalf of all Salem Firefighters and especially the McKenna family, we humbly thank you.
Of course, Stephen's many fire service affiliations and his natural ability to make long-lasting friendships is why he was respected and loved by so many. As a young man, Stephen J. McKenna graduated from Salem High School and married his high school sweetheart Nancy Girard. Before entering the fire service, Steve worked as an auto mechanic. He had a keen sense of figuring out how things work and more importantly, how to fix or tweak something that isn't working. This obviously was an important attribute for future success as a fire officer.
He began his fire service career in Goffstown, where he lived at the time, starting there as a call firefighter. He told Nancy that he wanted to change careers and thought he should take some classes that might help him in his desire to gain employment as a career firefighter. In 1995, Stephen was offered and accepted a position as a full-time firefighter right here in Keene. This opportunity led him and Nancy to first settle in Swanzey and then finally in Westmoreland, where he also served as a call firefighter. Stephen was promoted to Fire Lieutenant in Keene Fire Department before we coaxed him to join Salem Fire Department. And so, in 2003, Lieutenant Stephen McKenna started all over again as a probationary firefighter in Salem.
We joked back then about the distance of his commute between Westmoreland and Salem but he rationalized it telling us he spent so much time teaching at the New Hampshire Fire Academy that more often than not, he considered himself as already being halfway to Salem. Once settled at Salem Fire, he quickly climbed the ranks earning promotions to Fire Lieutenant, Station Officer and finally as a Fire Captain serving as shift commander of Group 2. Additionally, Stephen was very active as a Senior Fire Instructor at the New Hampshire Fire Academy serving as Technical Rescue Program Coordinator. He was also a proud member of Massachusetts Task Force 1, Urban Search and Rescue Team.
Stephen first learned he had cancer by a series of events that had him visiting many different doctors and hospitals. Of course, I recall with sadness the time Steve shared the news of his worsening condition and prognosis. We talked openly about his situation and he was consistently focused on his family and making sure they would be OK. These talks were always the hardest and he was steadfast in his resolve to do whatever he could to increase his remaining time with his wife Nancy and sons Douglas and Daniel. It was hardest for him when he could no longer work on shifts. You see, Stephen loved being a firefighter. He loved the job. He loved going to work and had a special relationship with all of his personnel.
A little more than three weeks ago, we met with Stephen as he was preparing to be discharged from Dartmouth Hitchcock Hospital. He was eager to return to the comforts of his own home and to be with those he loved most. He spoke about wanting to just sit in his living room right next to his woodstove and to bask in its warmth.
Our collective presence today is a clear demonstration of the love we shared for Stephen McKenna. He touched so many lives serving as a firefighter, paramedic, fire officer, fire instructor, technical rescue specialist and of course as a husband, father, brother and dear friend to so many.
You see, Stephen McKenna was a source of warmth for all of us.
In closing, we pray that God will see us all through this time of sorrow and we will be comforted and forever bask in Steve's warmth, recalling the fond memories we have of this selfless public servant. God bless Stephen's family and all of you, as we say goodbye to our brother, as he will now enjoy eternal rest, and the rich rewards he surely earned, while serving his fellow man.
Kevin J. Breen
Chief of Department
Salem Fire Department
I do not know your family but we have two firefighters in the family. Also, my brother, Stephen Joseph McKenna, died a few years ago. Mu mother's name is Nancy McKenna. My uncle's name is Leo McKenna and my mom grew up on PEI. It feels like some strange connection. Our sympathy to all of your family.
Dear Nancy and Family , I am very sorry to to here of Stephen's passing! I grew up with Stephen in Salem when he lived on Brown St. We were Best Friends for many years! I have many fond memories of Stephen!! I will always remember him as soft spoken and intelligent, and my best friend!! We lost touch after High School. I remember how exited he was every summer when the family would head up to P.E.I!! I only wish I knew he was working at the Salem Fire Department, As I would have loved to have seen him again! The last time I had seen Stephen,is when he was working at Dobles. Very sorry for your loss!! Kevin Wilson ( Methuen MA)
To Nancy and Family...
It has been a very long time since we all crossed paths in Goffstown, But Janice and I are so deeply sorry to hear about your loss! I know Steve was a wonderful Father and I knew him as the best mechanic anywhere. New Hampshire has lost a great public servant...and I'm sure a top notch firefighter. You are in our thoughts and prayers !
Tom and Janice Griffith