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Fort McMurray remembers 'Unbreakable Bo,' firefighter who died of leukemia

Fort McMurray gathered Saturday to remember fallen firefighter and professional MMA firefighter Bo Cooper.

Hundreds attend memorial service at Shell Place

Bo Cooper was 20 when he was first diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. (Facebook)

The weight of a firefighter taken in the prime of his life hung over the memorial service for 27-year-old Bo Cooper in Fort McMurray Saturday afternoon.

Firefighters from across Alberta gathered in Fort McMurray to honour their young colleague, known as "Unbreakable Bo."

Cooper died on Nov. 6 after a long battle with leukaemia. 

"He was a caring, compassionate, humble young man," said Fort McMurray Fire Captain Rob Van Hecke.

The community, province and country rallied around the firefighter and professional MMA fighter to raise money for an expensive experimental treatment that was only available in the United States after he ran out of treatment options in Canada.

In weeks, donors raised the $880,000 needed that allowed Cooper to travel to the the National Institute of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Md.

Despite the last-ditch effort, his leukemia returned.

Hundreds attend memorial service

Fort McMurray remembers firefighter Bo Cooper

6 years ago
Duration 1:51
Firefighters from all over Alberta gathered in Fort McMurray to support their young colleague, Bo Cooper, who succumbed to a long battle with leukemia. Cooper's memorial began with a parade down one of Fort McMurray's streets.

Saturday's memorial began with an RCMP-escorted parade of firefighters.

An honour guard stood watch throughout the two-hour ceremony at Shell Place. It was attended by hundreds of people. 

Cooper's wife and best friend both gave eulogies. 

The last person to speak was Cooper's father.

Rob Cooper thanked everyone for supporting his son and credited the experimental treatment for extending his son's life.

He said he was grateful they were able to spend one more year together.

"Bo was given every possible chance to live and I will be forever in your debt," Cooper's father said.

Van Hecke said not all of the money raised went toward Cooper's treatment.

As per Cooper's wishes, a portion will be used to set up a fund to help others fighting similar battles. 

david.thurton@cbc.ca

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