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What this group of firefighters did for a dying man meant the world to his family

Posted at 12:06 AM, Sep 01, 2014
and last updated 2014-09-06 00:31:48-04

BAYTOWN, Tex. -- A Texas family was brought to tears by a random act of kindness by a group of firefighters earlier this month.

The men fought to save a man's life, then offered help in a way his family never expected.

It started as a normal call for the men of Engine 4 in Baytown. At a house one mile away, 65-year-old John McCormick had collapsed while mowing his front yard.

McCormick had a history of heart trouble, but this time his heart stopped. Firefighters and EMTs revived him and followed the ambulance to the hospital.

But the engine driver, Luke Bednarek, had an idea, so the firefighters drove back to the house.

"We're all fighting over who can push the mower first," Lt. J.D. Giles said.

That's when a neighbor secretly took a photo of firefighter Blake Stefffenauer finishing cutting the front yard.

"I just happened to get off the truck first and grabbed the lawnmower first," Stefffenauer said. "We were all fighting over it."

The firefighters took turns and even finished the backyard, locked up the garage, put the key in the mailbox and left a handwritten note for the family.

"We felt bad that your husband didn't get to finish the yard, so we did," the note read.


The firefighters said what they did wasn't a big deal, but something the did to "help someone out in the worst time of their life."

But the letter and the gesture made McCormick's daughter weep.

"It just showed me that there's still compassion," Jeana Blackford said. "That people still do random acts of kindness every day for people that they don't know."

Sadly, the story does not have a happy ending. John McCormick died two days later.

The family thanked the firefighters for giving them those two days to say goodbye -- and for restoring their faith in people.

"I just couldn't believe it. I just couldn't believe they took the time to do that," said Patsy McCormick, John's wife.

That simple act of kindness meant so much at such a difficult time.

"It just speaks to their character," said Dan Blackford, the McCormick's son-in-law. "They say honor is doing the right thing when nobody's looking. That's a fact. They were very honorable."

The photo posted on the act of kindness posted on the city's Facebook page has gone viral. The family has received calls from as far away as New Zealand.

They're so grateful the neighbor snapped a photo, so they can thank the firefighters and hope it inspires others.

"This just shows just exactly how special they really are," Jeana Blackford said. "We love you. We appreciate you."

And that going above the call of duty often just takes a few more steps.