Shirland community shows support for firefighter battling cancer - – Rockford’s News Leader

Shirland community shows support for firefighter battling cancer


You could see tears and feel the emotion on one small street in Shirland Monday. Hundreds gathered to show their support for a small town hero. That hero is 66-year-old John Harris of the Shirland volunteer fire department. He's spent his entire life battling fires, and now he's battling the fight of his life.  

"He was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer on May 5 that essentially moved to all of his organs," said his daughter Jennifer Knowles.

His diagnosis came just shortly after his retirement from the Shirland Fire Department and just recently his health took a turn for the worse. 

"He's holding his own and getting weaker everyday, so it's just a matter of time and we are trying to make him comfortable and spend as much time with him as we can," said Knowles.  

John is so weak-- his family said he didn't have the strength to talk to us, but the show of support from this town speaks volumes about him. 

Members of the Shirland Volunteer Fire Department drove a procession of fire trucks to John's house just down the street from the fire department where he once worked for 30 years. People who know John say he's dedicated his whole life to the community. 

"It's a great loss for all of us, not just on the fire department , but John was popular in everything he did," said volunteer firefighter Kary Krebs. 

At the firehouse he was well known for being a "big" guy with a "big" heart and he always put others first. 

"We all named him Big John, he was a big guy and he was dedicated to the fire department," said David McKee.

Not only is John fighting cancer, his wife is a survivor of cancer too. 

"Talk about someone getting double hammered like that and with the strength of the people and the family it's a great cause to be here," said VP of Pink Heels Winnebago Chad Hargraves. 

John can't win his battle, but he spent so much of his life fighting-- he's not going to stop now.

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