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Paramedic loses fight against cancer

It was a year ago Tuesday when doctors told Jim Savoie that his chances of living a normal life had been reduced to 70 percent.

Little did Mr. Savoie know he would only live only another 364 days.

Mr. Savoie, a paramedic and former firefighter with the Spring Hill Fire and Rescue District, died of leukemia Monday at the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute in Tampa.

Through it all, the 40-year-old Brooksville man managed to keep smiling and living as normal a life as the disease would allow, said his wife of 19 years, Donna.

"He faced this with great courage for what he had to go through," Mrs. Savoie said Tuesday. "I don't know if I could have gone through it. It took a lot to walk through those hospital doors and never know what was going to happen."

It was during a fire and rescue physical on March 8, 1993, that Mr. Savoie learned he had chronic myelaid leukemia, the overproduction of certain white blood cells that crowd the bloodstream.

Mr. Savoie worked until August, when he began radiation and chemotherapy treatments. He returned in January, but was back in the hospital two days later for a successful bone marrow transplant.

The radiation and chemotherapy sessions eventually caused his liver, lungs and kidneys to fail, his wife said.

Assistant Chief Dennis Andrews described Mr. Savoie as a model employee who was devoted to his job and thrived on helping others.

It was his desire to assist others that prompted Mr. Savoie to be one of the first of a 13-member crew of Hernando and Pasco firefighters to volunteer to travel to the western United States in the summer of 1988 to battle blazes in Wyoming and Montana.

"Typical Jim," Andrews said. "He loved helping people."

And they returned the favor.

After Mr. Savoie became ill, friends and co-workers held a number of fund-raisers to help defray his medical costs.

Also, the James R. Savoie Trust Fund was set up at AmSouth banks throughout the county by the Professional Firefighters of Spring Hill.

Mr. Savoie was born in Rhode Island and settled in Brooksville from Miramar 14 years ago.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by two daughters, three brothers, two nieces and a nephew.

Friends may call from 2 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday at the Brooksville chapel of Brewer Memorial Funeral Home. The funeral will be at 10 a.m. Saturday at St. Anthony's Catholic Church in Brooksville, with burial in Florida Hills Memorial Gardens Cemetery.

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