La. firefighter known for dauntless spirit dies after cancer battle

Lafayette Firefighter Alex Bourque died at 26; he began experiencing knee pain in December 2020


Katie Gagliano
The Advocate, Baton Rouge

BATON ROUGE, La. — Lafayette and Broussard firefighter Alex Bourque was a fighter until the end, inspiring fellow firefighters and community members with his faith-filled resolve and dauntless spirit in the face of terminal cancer.

Bourque, 26, passed away May 11 after battling cancer. He was buried at St. Michael Cemetery after a funeral service with full firefighter honors at St. Martin de Tours Catholic Church in St. Martinville on Monday.

The 26-year-old began experiencing knee pain in December 2020, only to discover in April 2021 that what he thought was only a strained muscle was actually cancer. He was diagnosed with osteosarcoma and eventually had his right leg amputated.

This spring, Bourque discovered the cancer had spread and it rapidly developed from there, friends said.

Even through it all, friends said the warm, ever-smiling, goofy father of two always maintained a dogged optimism and continued to fight with a sincere passion to live. Instead of folding under the pressure of his circumstances, he found ways to laugh and also bring comfort to his loved ones.

"One of the guys told me that after he first found out about his leg, they were working a fire and when he came out the house one of the guys asked, 'Hey, can I get you anything?" and he said, 'Yeah, a new pair of legs would be nice,'" Broussard Fire Captain Josiah Atkins said with a chuckle.

The two men first met through mutual friends in Acadiana's homeschooling community before reuniting years later at the Broussard Fire Department. Atkins said Bourque was the kind of friend you could call when you had something on your mind, always ready with a listening ear and positive outlook that could help change your perspective.

His kindness wasn't reserved for close friends; if a new person walked into the fire station, Bourque was the first person to greet them and engage them in conversation, the captain said.

Bourque inspired others to be their best but also accepted you as you were and made people feel comfortable being themselves around him, he said.

"I don't think you'll be able to find enough people in the fire service to string together a bad sentence about this man. If everybody had a word to say I don't think you could put together a sentence about him that was negative," Atkins said.

Bourque served with the Lafayette Fire Department for six years and spent five years as a volunteer firefighter with the Broussard Fire Department. The 26-year-old came from a family of firefighters; his father, Michael Bourque, retired from the Lafayette Fire Department as an assistant chief and his brother, Joshua, serves as an engineer in the department, a release said.

Broussard Fire Deputy Chief Dennis Mouton said Bourque was the kind of person you wanted by your side when a task was at hand or you were facing a challenge. He was diligent, took pride in everything he did and led by example.

He made a point to know how everything operated; even with his high level of knowledge, there was never a task that was beneath him, Mouton said. When the Broussard Fire Department was without a secretary, Bourque stepped up and helped handle the office work on top of his other duties.

That know-how was a boon to Matt Bourgeois, who met Bourque when he joined the Lafayette Fire Department and was assigned to Station 2. Bourque generously handed down his knowledge to Bourgeois, who was new to the fire service, always willing to walk him through the operation of everything on the truck and the responsibilities of everyone's role, he said.

The men's relationship deepened after connecting over their Catholic faith. Bourgeois said one day Bourque found him praying a rosary at the station and soon after gifted him another. Bourque was a man of action who humbly lived out his faith, he said.

Though about six years older than Bourque, Bourgeois said he looked up to the younger firefighter and his wisdom, groundedness and maturity. Reflecting on Bourque's life has made him feel challenged to look for ways to do more and serve more in his own life, he said.

"You come across a lot of people in life but there's going to be [fewer] real, true people than the number of fingers you have on one hand in your life that you can count on. He was definitely one of those people," Bourgeois said.

Bourque's passion and diligence extended from his firefighting career to his life at home.

A father of two boys, Elliot and Zander, Bourque loved to spend his free time with his sons and wife, Jenae, fishing, riding a golf cart or four-wheelers and just enjoying nature, his friend Chris Treadaway said.

Treadaway and Bourque first met at the Lafayette Fire Department's Station 2 in 2017. Treadaway, originally from the Terrytown area in Jefferson Parish, had no family locally and Bourque took him in by inviting him to family events and holidays, treating him like a brother, the 29-year-old said.

Now expecting twin daughters, Treadaway said he looks to Bourque as the model for the kind of father he hopes to be. Bourque was a hands-on father; though he loved his firefighting career, he also fretted about missing a single moment or milestone in his sons' lives while away on shift, he said.

Bourque was a proud and animated father. When Treadaway gifted his son Elliot with a child's fishing pole for his second birthday, Bourque cheered with each good cast. At one of the boy's earliest soccer games, Treadaway recalled his friend beaming and making sure everyone saw when his son kicked a goal from midfield.

His friend was expected to be godfather to one of Treadaway's daughters. In March, before he took a turn for the worse, Bourque cooked for the couple's gender reveal party. Treadaway said he's confident his friend will continue to look out for his daughters from the afterlife.

"It meant the world to me, just being part of their lives and how much he made my life better just by showing me what a man should be like and what it's like to be a good brother, a good dad and a good husband," Treadaway said.

Bourque was the kind of person everyone hopes to be, Mouton said.

"I know he went straight to Heaven, I can tell you that. He didn't take no detour," he said.

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(c)2022 The Advocate, Baton Rouge, La.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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