By Laura King
May 7, 2014, Toronto – Ajax Fire Chief Mark Diotte died this morning. Diotte was a gentle giant – tall in stature, huge of heart – who fought with unwavering fortitude to slay the cancer that was discovered 11 months ago. In mid-March, Diotte told friends and colleagues he had lost his war with cancer and had limited time.
By Laura King
Diotte was a vice-president with the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs; he was diagnosed on June 7 with brain cancer, shortly after having been elected to the OAFC board at last May. Diotte had taken on the OAFC’s legislative portfolio, keen to help the association and his longtime friend and colleague, Matt Pegg, the OAFC president.
In the e-mails exchanged this morning among OFAC members – who are closing their 62nd annual conference today – the phrase larger than life was used myriad times to describe Diotte.
“Mark was an inspiring and visionary leader who was renowned for his larger-than-life executive presence,” Pegg said in a note to OAFC members.
“The only thing that mattered more to Mark than his come-and-see-me approach to leadership was his unwavering commitment to his wife Jennifer and daughters Natalie and Bridgette, along with his family and friends. While Mark will never be forgotten, he will be forever missed.”
Diotte shared news of his worsening condition in a note to friends and colleagues in February, saying things were not going well with his “war on cancer.”
In spite of Diotte’s resolve and positive attitude, he said, “I have lost the war.” But, he said, he had not lost his faith and would continue treatment to gain some time, however limited it may be. Diotte entered palliative care in mid-March.
Diotte began his fire-service career as a volunteer in Pickering in 1980 and became deputy chief in 2001. He was recruited to Ajax in 2006 and was appointed chief on July 1, 2010.
Days after Diotte was diagnosed with brain cancer, it was discovered that he was also battling lung cancer.
“Over the course of the next 11 months, to the day, he underwent extremely aggressive chemo and radiation therapies,” Pegg said this morning.
“Mark was my best friend. His never-ending commitment to honesty, integrity and compassion were truly uncommon. I am a much better and stronger person as a result of Mark. I will miss him dearly.”
Diotte’s life will be celebrated in a full-honours fire-service funeral. Details will be posted at www.oafc.on.ca/passing-oafc-vice-president-chief-mark-diotte.