As we age, we pick up more aches and pains, people come in and out of our lives, and occasionally we learn that a friend we've known for what seems like ever comes up against the challenge of a lifetime. So is the case with a friend of mine for many years who many fire service members know, Steve Skipton.

Steve and I were freshman at the same high school at the same time. Steve switched schools and we lost touch, as often happens, for many years until the early 2000s, when I saw his name on several photos on a Philadelphia area fire service Web site. I figured there couldn't be more than one Steve Skipton, so I contacted him. Back then AOL was still popular, and I "instant messaged" him using AOL Instant Messenger and after getting a "Yeah, why?" answer to whether or not he attended our high school, the friendship rejuvenated, mostly on a professional level. I was the Web Editor for at the time, and he graciously allowed me to use a number of his pictures on our Web site. He went on to be featured on a few Fire Engineering covers.

When I came to Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment, I was really glad to see him on our list of contributing photographers. Steve takes some great pictures of fire apparatus, several of which I use when he sends them in.

The trouble is, it's going to be a little while before he gets out to shoot any. Without getting into all the details, Steve has been diagnosed with the Big C. He was scheduled to attend FDIC this year, and we were going to get lunch to catch up. Shortly before FDIC, he learned he'd have to put off his trip to the show to get some tests done.

It is amazing how life changes. Just a few months ago, Steve was breaking the American LaFrance news to me via text message and now....this. Additionally he recently realized a dream and became a sales representative for Seagrave.

I've hesitated to write much about it. It's not an easy thing when you get news like this, regardless of how well you know the person affected. All told, I've known Steve for almost 27 years now. It takes some courage to work in some of the rough spots he found himself as an EMT in Camden, NJ. And, I think that's how he came to take on this most recent challenge: head on. His courage throughout this has been tremendous, and the support of his fire service brethren has been nothing short of outstanding.

As if Steve needs anymore encouragement given the reception he received upon returning home in time for Father's Day, let me just say that Steve, we've got this with you. Stay strong. And man, I really wish I could have come up with a few embarrassing pictures of you from our freshman yearbook, but none of them would reproduce well. And for those who don't know, the late 1980s were not kind to any of us! So, everyone will just have to settle for these fire truck pictures you took.

There are various ways you can help Steve and his family both in his home state of New Jersey and in South Carolina, where he lives currently. Visit for information.

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