VIDEO: Fallen South Metro firefighter 'epitomized the term brother'

Anthony Palato is remembered after losing life to cancer

Procession for firefighter paramedic Anthony Palato
Rocky Mountain PBS video

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Anthony Palato dreamed of being a firefighter ever since he was a small child, said his brother-in-law, Steve Durie.

“Tony epitomized the term 'brother' all his life,” Durie said at a memorial service Sept. 21, days after Palato died at age 55 on Sept. 15 after fighting cancer.

“He loved every aspect of being a firefighter, especially the camaraderie, the joking around, the pranks, and (helping) neighborhoods that he served — but mostly the love he shared with his brothers and sisters” at South Metro Fire Rescue, Durie said.

Palato — a “humble hero,” as Durie put it — served as a firefighter paramedic, beginning his fire service career with the City of Sheridan Fire Department and later joining the Cunningham Fire Protection District in 2000. An online obituary listed Palato as “of Castle Rock.”

In 2017, Palato was diagnosed with an occupational cancerous tumor, according to South Metro Fire Rescue.

“Although he went into remission a few years ago, tragically, the cancer returned. Tony was surrounded with a strong support network including his wife, their two daughters and his second family of firefighters,” the fire agency said in a news release.

When Durie was 12, he also lost his brother to cancer, he told the crowd at Denver First Church in Cherry Hills Village.

“And (I) lived most of my life with the void created by that loss,” Durie said. “Thirty-eight years later, I was blessed to meet Tony.”

Durie's first memory of meeting Palato was his “engaging, warm personality and his smile that lit up the room,” he said, recalling Palato's belly laugh.

“I had finally found the brother I had been missing all those years,” Durie said.

Palato was “dedicated to family” and loved getting family members together for events at holidays, Durie said.

“Now, the holiday season is fast approaching. And Tony always made sure the house was decorated to the nines, for either Halloween … Christmas or other holidays,” Durie said.

He added that Palato “would routinely get the family together to drive around to different neighborhoods just to see the lights.”

“Tony was recently asked just a few days ago what religion he was affiliated with. Tony paused, and he said: 'Anything that believes in love,'” Durie said.

Palato passed away peacefully, according to South Metro Fire Rescue. Because Palato's cancer was considered job-related, his memorial service was classified as Level I Line of Duty Death, according to the fire agency.

In 2018, Cunningham Fire Protection District unified with South Metro Fire Rescue, where Palato worked until he medically retired on March 1.

“There is no doubt that Tony touched many lives and will be remembered as a kind, caring and compassionate person with a true servant's heart,” the fire agency said in the news release. “He will be greatly missed.”

Memorial donations can be made to The Denver Hospice at 8299 E. Lowry Blvd. in Denver. The public can visit the hospice center's website here.

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