Former fire battalion chief attempts to save lives beyond the grave

      Chief John Winn, pictured here, spoke to firefighters during a ceremony in April. The Old Fort Fire Department donated the truck for Winn's mission to raise awareness. (Brandon Geier/WCIV)

      By Natalie

      CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- Dozens of fire trucks gathered from around the Lowcountry for one man on Thursday.

      Charleston Fire Department battalion chief John Winn's funeral was held in West Ashley. His friend and co-worker Gerald Mishoe says his death is a huge loss for the community.

      "We're all hurting today, and we want to send him off in grand fashion. He's a wonderful man, a great friend, and it's going to leave a big void in our hearts," he said.

      Among the fire engines, one stood out, painted in pearl, and it represents the mission Chief Winn took on before his death.

      "The color pearl represents the Minnie Pearl Foundation, which is a cancer research foundation nationwide," Mishoe said.

      The blue on the truck stands for mesothelioma, the lung cancer that eventually took Winn's life. The truck is a testament of his determination to keep saving lives, even beyond the grave.

      "When he was diagnosed with mesothelioma he was told and knew it was in the advanced stages. Had he had the proper scanning early, they would have found it and possibly have treated it much better and had a much better opportunity at a quality of life," Mishoe said. "Because of that, he came to our team and wanted us to start a mission to get this awareness out so our young firefighters could get the necessary scanning and testing to prevent this kind of thing from getting out of control."

      Winn spoke to a group of firefighters in April when the Old Fort Fire Department donated the truck to his mission of awareness.

      "What I want to do is make this. I want everyone in the state, the nation to realize that mesothelioma cancer is out there, and I want this to be a symbol to recognize every firefighter in South Carolina," Chief Winn said in April.

      Memorial donations can be made to the South Carolina Firefighters' Association, Mesothelioma Fund, P.O. Box 211725, Columbia, SC 29210.