ARGYLE, Texas — Don Moser left a legacy of service in his short 56 years of life.
Now, as his family held a final memorial service for him Friday afternoon in Argyle, they hope his legacy will also include changes in benefits for retired firefighters when they fall ill to enemies like cancer.
Moser, a retired firefighter who also served as mayor in Argyle, died April 29 after a five-year battle with metastatic prostate cancer.
Starting as a volunteer firefighter in Colleyville when he was 16 years old, Moser worked at the Bedford Fire Department for most of his career -- 17 years -- and retired at Westlake Fire Department in 2005.
Moser was retired when he was diagnosed with cancer. He tried filing worker's compensation claims, but they were automatically denied. His appeal was denied, too.
Retired firefighters are not covered under worker's compensation laws in Texas.
Cancer is the leading cause of death among firefighters, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health concluded that firefighters face a 9% increase in cancer diagnosis, and a 14% increase in cancer-related deaths, compared to the general U.S. population.
Friday afternoon at The Well Community Church in Argyle, Moser's firefighting helmet, now containing his ashes, was carried from a Bedford Fire Department engine into the church sanctuary.
“Don made a choice at that time to live his life the best he could each and every day," a friend said in reference to the cancer diagnosis Moser received in 2017. "In those five years he created many, many special memories.”
The memory, and legacy, that his family would like to have now – is a change in firefighter benefits. The cancer rates among firefighters is extremely high.
Doctors believe Don Moser’s cancer could have been caused by toxic exposure, too. But that did not change the state's decision to deny him workers compensation benefits.
"Big old six-foot-four red-headed teddy bear that just had a heart of gold," Trophy Club Deputy Chief Gary Cochran said in his eulogy. Moser, whom he called "Mo," always wore a trademark black cowboy hat. Cochran donned the hat for his eulogy.
“Mo, rest in peace brother," he said. "I got our hat taken care of. You don’t have to worry about. You don’t worry about it hitting the ground or getting dirty. And I love you brother. You’ll be missed.”
They rang a bell, three times - five rings each, as the traditional last firefighter call. A lone bagpiper played Amazing Grace.
Another friend struggled through a poem that included the verses “don’t grieve for me, for now I am free. Be not burdened with tears of sorrow. Enjoy the sunrise of the 'morrow."
And in the final prayer, pastor Dr. Matthew Harding made reference again to Moser's fatal diagnosis.
“Lord we hate cancer. Lord we hate death. We hate the pain we have to experience in the loss of life," he said while asking the Moser family to find solace and strength in their faith.
And on the helmet containing Don Moser’s ashes, it also contains these words: “I will always be with you." His family prays that his legacy, a change in benefits for the next firefighter, always will.
The online obituary for Donald Gordon Moser can be found here.