JACOB ROSA was the son of Myrna Rubert and Jose Rosa. A resident of North Camden, Jacob’s life ambition was to become a fire fighter. Sadly, he was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma, a form of cancer.
On July 1, 2009 Camden Fire Department made nine-year-old Jacob Rosa an honorary fire fighter and member of Engine Company 6. Sadly, less than a month would pass before Jacob's illness took his life.
Jacob's friend of three years, Camden fire fighter Pete Perez, made sure the boy also received a fire fighter’s funeral.
Camden Courier-Post - July 2, 2009
Youngster becomes Junior Firefighter in Camden
CAMDEN — At age 9, Jacob Rosa knows, without a doubt, that he wants to be a firefighter when he grows up. He can't explain why, only that he's always loved the fire department.
But he also understands that he may not live long enough to realize that dream, said his mother, Myrna Rubert.He was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma in January 2006.
Though Hodgkin's is one of a handful of highly curable cancers, a variety of medicines haven't been able to stop the disease from spreading from one lymph node group to another in his neck, chest, stomach and liver.
Dr. Leslie Kersun, his oncologist at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, said she's exhausted all the treatments that might have cured his disease. Jacob's battle with cancer touched Camden firefighter Pete Perez, who heard about the boy's love of firefighting through a friend of the family and came to meet him not long after he was diagnosed.
Perez kept in touch with the boy, calling his mother at least once a month to see how he was doing. At first, it seemed as if Jacob would be among the 90 percent to 95 percent of Hodgkins patients who go on to live long, normal lives. He went into remission after seven months of treatment, even returning to Cooper's Poynt school for second grade. He loved school, especially playing basketball in gym class.
But he relapsed in June 2008. Doctors tried a variety of treatments and nothing worked. Kersun said there's no way of knowing what caused the cancer or why Jacob's not responding to treatment.
"His lymphoma is very stubborn," Kersun said. "What's impressive about him, he never complains. No matter what's happening with him I can pretty much always get him to get a smile on his face."
Jacob's attitude also made an impression on Perez. He remembered visiting the boy in the hospital during one of his treatments. "He said, "I've been fighting, I'm going to keep fighting,' " Perez remembered. "That just showed a lot of character."
Perez brought his colleagues from Engine 6 to meet Jacob. They took him for rides around the block on their truck and brought him T-shirts, hats and framed photographs. During the holidays, they dropped off toys and food baskets.
"We were always praying for him hoping he would get better," Perez said. "I can never put myself in his mother or father's shoes." When Perez heard that Jacob wasn't doing well a few weeks ago, he said he talked to his co-workers to see what else they could do to recognize the boy's courage and bravery. "I didn't want to wait until it was too late," Perez said.
They decided to make his dream come true. On Wednesday, they invited him to the downtown fire station to become inducted to the department as an honorary junior firefighter.
Jacob raised his right hand as Capt. Agripino Figueroa recited the fireman's oath for him. "Once a firefighter, always a firefighter," Figueroa said. "We're here for you, Jacob." Calling Jacob the bravest person he knows, Perez presented him with a badge and helmet.
"Today he's going to become a brother of many of us, so he'll have thousands of brothers praying for him," Perez said. "He's part of our family now." Deputy Chief Thomas Quinn said just as Jacob looks up to the firefighters, they look at him as a role model. "We think that we have the worst day and when you see Jacob's family our troubles are very trivial," he said. Jacob sat silently in his wheelchair as firefighters and family members fussed over his new helmet.
Even though he barely spoke, Rubert said she could tell he was enjoying himself because his smile never wavered. He's always been quiet, she said, so much so that she has to constantly ask him whether he's doing OK. "He'll never tell us," she said. "He'd rather withstand pain." Jacob said he doesn't complain "because I don't like being in the hospital."
"He's got some good willpower there," said his dad, Jose Rosa Sr.
Rubert said she sometimes hears Jacob crying when he's alone. But he'll hide his pain, whether physical or emotional, so as not to worry his parents and three older brothers.
"He tells me, "Mommy, don't worry, I'm going to fight,' " Rubert said.
Fire Rescue 1 - July 25, 2009
CAMDEN, N.J. — Members of the fire department lined the entrance of the church as the coffin of Jacob Rosa was brought in.
After the funeral service was completed, they carried the flag-draped coffin outside where more firefighters saluted.
It was a poignant farewell in the finest firefighter tradition. But Jacob was only 9-years-old — and had only been made an honorary junior member of the Camden, N.J., Fire Department just a few weeks before his death from cancer.
"This is a brotherhood and this young man was one of our brothers," Engine Company 6 Firefighter Pete Perez said.
"We made him a firefighter, so when he passed away we had to treat him like one."
Jacob was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma at the start of 2006. A mutual friend of the family told Firefighter Perez of the youngster's love of firefighters, and the bond between them began.
Firefighter Perez stayed in regular touch with the family, with Engine 6 taking Jacob for short rides and bringing him T-Shirts and hats to try to keep his spirits up.
"At one point, he seemed to be doing well and he was back to school, but earlier this year things took a turn for the worse," Firefighter Perez said.
With Jacob's health failing, Firefighter Perez helped to arrange for Jacob to become an honorary junior member of Engine 6 at the start of the month, allowing him to realize his dream of becoming a firefighter.
"It ended up becoming a proper ceremony for him," Firefighter Perez said.
"He was in a lot of the pain at the time, but as he was sworn in he was still smiling.
Jacob passed away at his home on Tuesday. In the previous month, the family had also lost two other close members.
Firefighter Perez stepped forward when the family was at their lowest ebb, with Engine 6 taking charge of covering the costs for Saturday's funeral and helping to arrange it.
"A lot of members have children and could see what the family would've been going through," he said.
"Also for me, the fire department isn't just about fighting fires — it's about being part of the community and serving it.
"This young man was one of the bravest people I had ever met — and for someone that works with some of the bravest people around, that says something."
Camden Courier-Post * July 26, 2009
The Camden Fire Department said goodbye to one of their own on Saturday. One by one, firefighters placed a flower on 9-year-old Jacob Rosa's light blue coffin. Just weeks before he succumbed to cancer, Jacob was named a honorary junior member of Engine Six, realizing his life-long dream of being a firefighter.
"He's now our brother and we're going to treat him this way," said fireman Pete Perez, who heard about the boy's love of firefighting through a friend of the family and met him not long after he was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma in January 2006. "When I saw him at the hospital, he said "I'm going to fight this'. He exemplified everything that firefighting stands for."
Though Hodgkin's is one of a handful of highly curable cancers, a variety of medicines haven't been able to stop the disease from spreading from one lymph node group to another in Jacob's neck, chest, stomach and liver. He died on Tuesday at his home.
Perez held Jacob's firefighter helmet throughout the funeral mass at Holy Name Catholic Church.
Firefighters lined the entrance of the church as Jacob's father, three brothers and uncles carried his coffin inside. The boy's family, wearing shirts with Jacob's latter 6 helmet, followed closely behind.
"I was there when he was born and I was there when he passed," said Jacob's aunt, Kathy Rubert. She remembered him as an active boy who liked video games and riding his bicycle. "Even sick, toward the end, he still wanted to do all that," Rubert said.
More than 100 people attended the mass, held in Spanish and English.
Members of the fire department carried his coffin, draped in an American flag, out of the church and others saluted as it passed.
At Arlington Cemetery in Pennsauken, a lone fireman played Amazing Grace on the bagpipe as the boy was laid to rest near his grandfather and uncle.
Two white doves were released as Jacob's mother placed a red carnation and a white rose on his coffin.
"Oh, Jacob, I love you," she said, as the tears streaked down her face.
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