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April 3, 2013

The “Big John” Legacy

by: Joseph F. Rice

Despite having represented and advocated for asbestos victims and their families for the many decades I have been in practice, I am always humbled by the continual efforts being made throughout our firm and community to raise public awareness about asbestos exposure and support the thousands of people affected by asbestos-related diseases such as mesothelioma.

Every asbestos victim’s story is unique and has the ability to inspire. Today, we had the great privilege of helping to share a special story that is building upon the strength of the asbestos community while honoring the life of an honorable man whose mission was to save lives. 

Charleston Fire Department Battalion Chief John Winn was a longtime firefighter who, after serving our community for more than 30 years, bravely lost his life to mesothelioma in May of last year. Determined to continue his commitment to public service, it was his wish to start the Firefighter Health Awareness Campaign, a movement to promote health screenings among his fellow firefighters and advocate for early detection of potentially life-threatening diseases. Fire can be deadly, but asbestos and other toxins to which firefighters can be exposed when entering compromised buildings can be as equally dangerous. In his memory, Chief Winn’s colleagues and supporters restored “Big John,” a 1969 Mack CF600 fire truck that now travels throughout South Carolina spreading awareness about his cause.

It was our pleasure to have “Big John,” Chief Gerald Mishoe and members of Chief Winn’s family, as well as several City of Charleston firefighters, spend time at our headquarters in Mt. Pleasant today to talk about the campaign—a campaign that has already led to the early diagnoses of serious illnesses in five firefighters and is a true testament to how the efforts of a few can make a difference for many.

Chief Winn’s colleagues had, and continue to have, tremendous reverence for him—as a leader, a firefighter, a colleague, an advocate and a man. The reactions of his family, friends, and our attorneys and staff, remind me about why we do what we do here at Motley Rice. We represent people and their causes, and it is the names, faces and stories of each of these people that initiate change. I hope you will join me in advocating for more year-round efforts to promote asbestos awareness in your communities.

end your support to those who are fighting asbestos diseases. Remember those we have lost. As we come together, more and more progress will be made towards banning asbestos, funding mesothelioma research and finding a cure.

If you wish to share your story or that of a loved one to inspire others and help advance the cause of asbestos awareness, please visit ADAO’s “Share Your Story” site at www.asbestosdiseaseawareness.org/share-your-story-collection.