Colorado Springs Firefighters Name Etched in Memory

Lt. Donald "Donnie" Hekkers made an impression on the community as a firefighter, organizing camps for children and making others his top priority.

And now, the impression of Hekkers' name is carved in stone forever.

Hekkers, who died Nov. 11, 2004, on Saturday became the first Colorado Springs firefighter to be placed on the International Association of Fire Fighters' Fallen Fire Fighter Memorial wall at Memorial Park.

Thousands of firefighters, relatives and spectators joined Hekkers' widow, Terry, at the park Saturday for the 19th annual observance. The ceremony, steeped in 200-year-old traditions, recognized the 86 names of IAFF firefighters killed in the line of duty during the previous year.

Their names joined 1,792 others etched on the black granite wall.

Hekkers died of nonsmoking, small-cell lung cancer, which was caused by inhaling toxic smoke, Terry Hekkers said. As a veteran of more than 30 years, Hekkers had fought fires in the early part of his career without the now-standard air masks.

"It was his life," Hekkers said. "To serve the community was everything to him."

Some fire departments from as far away as Canada and New York sent representatives to participate in the ceremony.

The day started with family members and co-workers looking at their loved ones' names on the wall. Touching it. Taking a rubbing of it. Bowing their heads to cry. Leaving flowers, pictures, poems and candles in memory.

"It's important for him to be remembered," said Lynne Stuart of Hamilton, Canada, whose husband, Alex Maxwell, is now on the wall. "It's where he belongs."

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