LUBBOCK, TX - Retired Lubbock firefighter, Jay Watson, has passed away, his family confirmed. He was 54.
"This morning (Saturday), Jay closed his eyes, took his last breath and woke up in glory," his wife said in a Facebook post titled "Final Cancer Update."
Watson publicly battled mucinous adenocarcinoma, a rare type of cancer that affected his digestive system.
"Our family would like to thank you for your prayers, cards, texts, calls, Christmas lights, wood work, blankets, awards, trips, meals, Yard-work, restaurant surprises, gift cards and the list goes on and on. Thank you does not seem enough," his wife wrote. "We are so grateful for our family and friends that have been with us since this journey began. We will never forget your love, kindness, encouragement, support and concern."
After his diagnosis on November 21, 2014, doctors gave him about 6-12 months to live. He continued to fight for more than two and a half years, participating in clinical trials after chemotherapy did not work.
Watson was profiled in a special report on EverythingLubbock.com in May, discussing increased cancer rates in firefighters.
"Firefighters they just have that mentality that they're not going to quit," Watson told reporter Wes Rapaport during that May interview. "They're there to serve, they're there to help, and you're there in difficult situations, and you just overlook what's going on, and do the best you can,and i think that same thing has carried through with my cancer. It's not something you want to go through, but it's something you just face every day."
Watson served the Lubbock Fire Department for nearly three decades. His illness forced him to retire in 2015. The 30-year mark at the department eluded him, a benchmark he wished he could have reached.
"September (2017) would have marked 30 years," Watson said. "When I got on, I told myself I'd make 30... 28 is where I got."
"Somebody asked me one time they said, 'Knowing everything you do now, would you go back and do it again, knowing it was going to happen?' In a heartbeat. Greatest job I ever had, " Watson said.
When Watson was diagnosed, his coworkers at the fire department raised more than $10,000 to send his family on a Disney World vacation. After retirement, he spent time with his grandchildren in Colorado. Friends and colleagues drove him from Lubbock to regular treatments in San Antonio, to assist his wife, who became his caregiver.
Watson remained active with LFR's yearly Fill the Boot fundraiser.
Through his battle with cancer, Watson remained positive, finding inspiration in his faith.
"No matter how long we're here, I know there's a better place waiting for me, and God's got this in his hands," he said. "And the day I was diagnosed I just told him, just walk with me. I'm going to walk this journey with you, and do with me what you want. When you're ready, I'm ready."
Watson is survived by his wife, two children, and three grandchildren
Visitation for Watson will be held Monday evening at LakeRidge Memorial Chapel from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. Services will be held Tuesday morning at 10:00 a.m. at Southcrest Baptist Church. Burial will follow at Resthaven Cemetery. After the service, there will be a pot luck meal at the LPFFA Union Hall.
Lubbock Fire Rescue released the following statement on their Facebook page Saturday afternoon:
The LFR family wishes to express our deepest condolences to the family of retired firefighter Jay Watson. Jay retired from the fire department as a firefighter in 2015 after 28 years of serving the citizens of Lubbock. He began his career with LFR on September 28 1987. After a long battle with cancer he went to his heavenly home this morning. Services are pending and we will relay updates as more is known. Rest in peace brother.
This story was updated with video on July 11, 2017.
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