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Newfoundland and Labrador man who caught fire dies of pneumonia

Bernard Hawco Sr., 85, of Chapel's Cove died Tuesday. In May Hawco caught fire while burning brush on his property in Chapel's Cove. He died of pneumonia, however.
Bernard Hawco Sr., 85, of Chapel's Cove died Tuesday. In May Hawco caught fire while burning brush on his property in Chapel's Cove. He died of pneumonia, however. - Contributed

Bernard Hawco was 85

Bernard Hawco, who survived for more than a month after injuries received when his clothes caught fire while he tended to a brush fire on his property in Chapel’s Cove, has died.

Hawco, who was saved by his neighbour did not succumb to his injuries, but contracted pneumonia while in hospital, said his son Bernard Jr.

“I got a phone call he wasn’t going to last 12 hours,” Bernard Jr. said of the news in May that Hawco Sr. had suffered serious burns to his legs while tending to a small fire as he cleaned up his Chapel’s Cove property. His overalls and boots caught fire and he had been at risk of losing both his legs to amputation. He had remained in the Health Sciences Centre since the fire, but had surprised family and medical staff with his resilience, his son said.

“He was doing so well,” Hawco Jr. said. “His health had increased so well.”

Hawco Jr., a first responder in Toronto, struggled for words to adequately describe all that his dad meant to him.

“He was my hero. My rock. He raised eight kids on his own. Just like his injuries in the fire, he fought the battles. He overcame every challenge to raise eight kids on his own,” Hawco Jr. said.

"My dad's door just like his heart was always open.  He taught me to always find the good in people. The rewards of a hard day's work. He taught me that family is everything. I am a man, a father, a husband because of the way he raised me. If only I could ever be half the man. Forever in my heart."

Hawco Jr. said in his last days his father wasn’t lucid a lot but at various times was able to chat with his loved ones.

“At the end of the day, he didn’t want to be in pain anymore. He didn’t want to see his family in anymore pain. He passed peacefully with no struggle,” Hawco Jr. said.

Hawco Sr. had worked as a heavy machinery mechanic for Erco in Long Harbour before retirement and was known around his community for always working around his property. His remains will be spread there, his son said.

His son said Hawco Sr. was progressing enough that he was even expected to attend Hawco Jr.’s retirement in Toronto next week.

But late last week he contracted pneumonia, which he had beat a couple times last year. He’d also recently beat a number of other health struggles, including chronic pancreatitis and a blood infection.

His obituary describes Hawco Sr., who was 85, as like a cat with nine lives, only he “expired at least a dozen.”

The obituary noted the hard-working senior had “torqued his last nut, drove his last nail and repaired his last scavenged lawn mower.”

Paul Furey had spotted his neighbour the May 14 afternoon of the fire by happenstance as he went to the trunk of his car instead of heading to do some work in his backyard. Hawco Sr. was in his meadow across the road, a distance of a block and a half  away from Furey, and was staggering around.

Furey realized his neighbour was on fire and ran to his aid.

Among Hawco Sr.’s survivors are his wife of 37 years, Geraldine, and his children and stepchildren.

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Son thanks man who saved burning father in Chapel's Cove

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