After nearly 14 years on the job, Andy Mullen worked his last shift at the Anchorage Fire Department on April 18, 2010 at Rescue 4. Andy was diagnosed with cancer that was determined to have been directly linked to exposure on the job while carrying out his duties as a Firefighter.
Thirteen years after the exposure to thick, black smoke from burning wires, it was determined his cancer was caused by his work, entitling his widow, 19 year old daughter, and 10 year old twin daughter’s benefits. This was the first test of Alaska’s 2 year old “firefighter presumption” law, which says firefighters are eligible for workers compensation benefits if they develop certain types of cancer after documented exposure to known carcinogens while on the job.
It was a seemingly routine call just three months into Mullen’s nearly 14 year career that eventually killed him; a brush fire near Ship Creek one morning in May 1997. Thirteen years later, in April 2010, Mullen went to a doctor complaining of blurred vision. When glasses failed to help, further testing revealed a brain tumor, which was traced back to renal cancer in Mullen’s kidneys caused by the coating on the electrical wires during the fire. Andy’s survivor benefits were approved just 12 days before he died.
Andy was a devoted father in every sense of the word, he was a best friend, mentor, companion, and protector to his daughters, spending every possible moment with them, going camping, swimming, hiking, and seeking new adventures. All who knew and loved him agree that he was born to be a dad and was the best father a child could ever hope for.
In his fight against cancer, Andy showed an unquenchable spirit. Even as Andy’s health declined, his email updates were upbeat and classic. He never gave up. His last email posted September 23, ended; “As I write this the sun shines through my windows, I have a cup of coffee, and the radio is playing some of my favorite songs. I doing OK. Andy.”
Following are some thoughts from family and friends on the 2015 anniversary of his passing.
Andy’s sister wanted to add that he…………..
“grew up on Long Island close to the beach where he enjoyed boating and playing lacrosse and was still very close to his Harborfields High School friends.. He built his cabin in Willow with the help from friends and his older brother, Scott and his Dad, Don. Andy went on many adventures throughout his life, including a canoe trip down the Yukon River in 2001 with his Dad and cousin, Steve. One of his big adventures was his trip to Nepal in 2008. Andy was close to his sister, Alice, who also has twins. They shared many conversations about their love for their children. Andy had a love for friends and family near and far and always lived his life to the fullest.”
A close friend of Andy’s commented that …………
“Andy set the standard for quality of friendship and was the model of fatherhood to all of those around him. Andy’s legacy carries on still, as friendships and connections are being made and continue to bloom among Andy’s friends near and far today. He was a gift of the utmost value.”……………..” And lastly, I would like to quote a friend who Andy and I used to work with at MarkAir. John said:
“If wealth is truly measured by the friends that one keeps, then I have to say that Andy is the richest person that I have ever met. We were all touched by his presence and moved by his actions and even in his absence we continually remember and honor him and what he gave us.”