Service scheduled for longtime firefighter who died of cancer

Published 1:48 pm Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Longtime Albert Lea firefighter Brett Boss died Saturday after a more than seven-year battle with cancer. 

Boss’s funeral is slated for 3 p.m. Saturday at Crossroads Church with visitation from 4 to 7 p.m. Friday and at 2 p.m. prior to the service at the church.

Boss, 38, was a lieutenant with Albert Lea Fire Rescue and was a passionate advocate of lobbying for safety measures for firefighters on both the state and national level. He also served as an EMT. 

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“Our hearts are broken. …” the Albert Lea Fire Rescue Facebook page posted Sunday morning. “We lost our brother, Lt. Brett Boss, late yesterday morning, after a long, courageous battle with cancer. Brett left an impact on this community that can’t be measured.” 

Boss was diagnosed with Stage 4 Ewing’s sarcoma in December 2014, a bone cancer that typically affects children and adolescents and rarely occurs in adults over 30. He successfully fought cancer and had no evidence of the disease in November 2015; however, in the fall of 2020, his cancer had come back with spots on the lung that required surgery and chemotherapy treatments. The cancer returned in the summer of 2021, this time in his brain. While his brain surgery was successful, doctors ultimately found more spots of cancer on his left side by his heart and in the lymph nodes this past fall, his family posted on the “Fighting Cancer Like a BOSS” page. 

“He was an amazing young man,” said District 27A Rep. Peggy Bennett, who worked with Boss on legislation to benefit firefighters. “I was so saddened to hear the news. I knew the cancer had come back and that he was fighting it again, but I did not know how serious it had gotten.” 

She said she will always remember Boss for his relentlessness and persistence and his love for his fellow firefighters. 

“That never-give-up attitude was such an inspiration to me,” she said. “It showed in his personal life, and it showed in how he worked with legislators. … He was a guy I’ll never forget.” 

Boss was a part of lobbying for legislation that passed into law giving funding for fire departments for special washing machines for gear, Bennett said. Research has shown that firefighters have a higher chance than the general population of developing cancer because of exposure to substances such as asbestos, lead and gases and fumes when responding to calls. Legislation Boss fought for also allowed more firefighters who suffer from cancer caused by firefighting to have coverage under workers’ compensation, she said. 

A bill was also passed at the national level to create a national firefighter registry that would monitor and study the relationship between career-long exposure to dangerous fumes and toxins and the incidence of cancer in firefighters. 

“They serve our communities in a really unique way putting their lives on the line to protect our own property and our own lives,” Bennett said. “They’re at greater risk when they’re doing that.”  

In addition to lobbying for better safety measure for firefighters, Boss also was known for lending support for local individuals with cancer, and formed a special relationship with Bebo Getchell, son of Evan and Dara Getchell, who has fought cancer for several years. 

“Brett was an amazing individual with a purpose and drive in life to reach out to those going through the hard in cancer just as he did in his own life,” Dara Getchell said. “Brett was very intentional about reaching out and coming alongside Bebo during his cancer journey.”

She said her family will be forever grateful for Boss and humbled that their son got to be positively touched for the better by one of Boss’s purposes in life.

A GoFundMe account has been set up for his family, including his wife, Danielle, and two children, Jaelyn and Aiden. As of Tuesday afternoon it had raised $6,280.