WILLOUGHBY, Ohio -- A local hero, Captain Michael Palumbo Jr. was laid to rest Saturday surrounded by family, friends and his brothers and sisters in the fire service after a long battle against brain cancer.
"He was the definition of hero," said lifelong friend and Euclid Fire Lt. Bill Mastroianni. "What he did, his selfless act of putting himself on the forefront while battling this cancer. He worried more about us than himself."
Hundreds gathered at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Willoughby for Palumbo's funeral mass. The Beachwood Fire Captain is the namesake for a state law passed in January, The Michael Louis Palumbo Jr. Act, allowing firefighters disabled by cancer the opportunity to file for workers compensation, essentially classifying cancer as an occupational hazard.
According to close family friends, Palumbo was a man of faith and family. He leaves behind a wife of 23 years and five children ranging in age from 21 to 8 years old. Palumbo started his career in Willowick, serving the community where he grew up. He was a member of the Beachwood Fire Department since 1992. There, he was a member of the honor guard, a SWAT medic and part of the Hazmat team.
Mastroianni describes Palumbo as a champion for the rights of firefighters in addition to being a man who was proud to wear the uniform.
"There's going to be firefighters that are born tomorrow that won't be firefighters for 25 years that Michael will touch their lives their family them as firefighters," said Mastroianni. "It's going to be tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of firefighters throughout the history of Ohio."
Mastroianni says a portion of I-271 in Beachwood will be renamed after Palumbo in the near future.