Friday, March 29, 2024

Honoring Fire Heroes

A portion of the Memoria wall.

I was given the opportunity to record an oral history for the California Fire Foundation regarding the California Firefighters Memorial. This wonderful organization maintains the memorial wall and surrounding park area in Sacramento, CA. It is a lovely setting that is dedicated to the memory of over 1500 California fire professionals. I wanted to share on my blog what I had to say.



        My name is Judith DeChesere-Boyle. My husband, Rick, and the rest of our family feel honored that my son, Alexander J. Stevenson’s name is engraved on the wall of the California Firefighters Memorial in Sacramento. Whenever we are in the area we feel a presence, one of love and support, just knowing he is honored there.

If Alex had known, he would have said, “Why all the fuss, Ma?” 

We certainly would reply, “Oh, Alex, you are so deserving of this honor.”

Alex's name is here along with his friends, Karen Shubin and Luis Magallanes.

Alex passed away on May 24, 2013, at the age of 39 of occupational-related brain cancer. For nine long years he fought to beat the beast, but in the end, he lost the battle. As a mom, I knew I had to do something to keep his memory alive. So, I wrote a memoir, Tumor Me, The Story of My Firefighter. We talked about it before he passed.


When this is all over,” I told Alex, “no matter what, I’m writing a memoir, a record of all we’ve been through together.”

            He looked at me a bit apprehensively but smiled anyway. He knew there would be no stopping his mom!

            “I’m going to call it Tumor Me,” I told him decisively.

“I think that title might get lost on a few people,” he answered glibly.

“Maybe, but I think it’s perfect. You’re always so upbeat, so funny, even with all you’ve faced. When I feel like crying, you make me laugh. Every day you have me chuckling. It’s a paradox, really. I don’t know how you do it.”

He grinned again, his azure eyes twinkling, an uncanny wisdom lying behind them.


I recall that conversation vividly, and in retrospect I suppose he was right. Some folks might be offended by the title, but I hope would humor me a bit. I had a story to tell, one with a beginning, a middle, and an end. 

Ours was a tale of trials, fears, unknowns, and desperation. Yet it was countered with hope, determination, bravery, and unparalleled optimism that only my son could have mustered.

And who was my son? He was a CAL FIRE firefighter, a Fire Apparatus Engineer, a Fire Inspector, a fighter, a friend, a confidant; he was responsible, trustworthy, funny, respected, and loved. He listened, he contributed, and he worked hard. Laughter was his sidekick, and everyone knew it. 

Who was Alex? He was a man, who, when the chips were down, had 4,482 hours of leave donated to him by his co-workers through CAL FIRE’s Catastrophic Leave Bank. It was an unequaled gesture of love and support from his “fire family”.

The words between the covers of my memoir tell our story. It’s a mom’s perspective and every bit is true.

It’s on Amazon and kindle. I would love to send a copy to your office as a way of thanking “the fire family” for always being by our side. And thank you for so beautifully maintaining the California Firefighters Memorial that respects the lives of so many heroes. It keeps their memories alive. And that means everything.



Receiving the flag with my son, Justin.
The memorial