NEW GLOUCESTER — George Carman, a longtime firefighter and safety officer with New Gloucester Fire & Rescue, was remembered Wednesday as a tough, empathetic family man who was “always cracking jokes and always smiling.”

George Carman New Gloucester Fire & Rescue

Carman died Tuesday of cancer at the age of 52.

According to Capt. Scott Doyle of the New Gloucester Fire & Rescue Department, Carman was diagnosed with cancer in November 2018. While he was in remission over the summer, he learned two weeks ago that it had returned and had caused one of his kidneys to fail.

Carman, who underwent a double lung transplant in 2011, learned that “any measure taken to treat the kidney would have caused his body to reject his new lungs,” according to Doyle.

“George and his family decided last week that he would focus on being comfortable and chose to forgo any more medical treatments,” Doyle said.

Throughout his life, Carman battled through medical issues but never let them hinder him.

He was born with cystic fibrosis, which attacked his lungs and made it difficult for him to breathe.

In 2004, community members and firefighters started a fundraiser called New Lungs for George to help him and his family cover the out-of-pocket costs of a lung transplant.

He spent five years waiting to get on an organ transplant list, and once he was placed on the list, spent another five months waiting for a donor.

On Feb. 3, 2011, he had the transplant, and four months later went on his first post-surgery fire call, driving a truck and directing traffic.

Several of his friends and co-workers noted he was a “one-of-a-kind” man who cared deeply for his family and friends.

“How do you put into words how amazing George Carman was?” asked April Whitney, a clerk at Androscoggin County Superior Court. “There are endless stories.”

Whitney said that when Carman was at a hospital for treatment and met someone with cystic fibrosis or who had undergone a lung transplant, he would get their phone number and periodically check in on them.

“He’d make a personal connection with people and stay in contact with them to see how they were dealing with their treatment,” Whitney said. “It just really shows you the kind of person he was.”

Dexter Fire Chief Matthew Connor said Carman was a “tough son of a bitch, especially after everything he’s been through.”

“Despite his health issues, he was always cracking jokes, always smiling, and always ready to dance,” Connor said. “He was a comedian and a family man.”

Connor said he and other firefighters with the Dexter Fire Department met Carman at a convention in 2005 and “hit it off, right from the get-go.”

“Every year that we’d go to the convention, George made it a point to come and hang out with us,” Connor said.

He said when he heard Carman’s cancer had returned, he and 14 others from the Dexter Fire Department drove to New Gloucester to visit him at his house.

“I’m forever grateful that we went to see him,” Connor said. “We brought him a Dexter Fire Department T-shirt and made him an honorary member. We told him, ‘We’re not sure what your response time will be if there’s a fire in Dexter, but you’re with us now.’”

Carman wrote on his Facebook page that when he was born, doctors gave him four days to live.

He proved the doctors wrong and was released from the hospital after nine months.

He worked for Bath Iron Works from 1989 to 2000, and in 1990 he joined the Yarmouth Fire Department, which, according to Carman, “fulfilled a dream of being a firefighter, against doctor’s advice.”

Carman started working for the New Gloucester Fire Department in 1994, and over the years, despite his cystic fibrosis, took every training course they offered, including cold-water rescue, pump operations, vehicle extrication, leadership seminars and safety courses.

Kathleen Potter, a New Gloucester resident since 2002 and a friend of Carman’s, said there was “so much more to Carman than just firefighting and his illness.”

She said Carman, Doyle, and resident Brian Whitney joined her in starting an annual community fair in 2004.

Potter said she, Carman and the others stopped organizing the fair in 2014 because of illnesses in their respective families.

“George was the head of it all,” Potter said. “He was the inspiration. He was a huge part of New Gloucester, and now that he’s gone, there’s a hole in the community.”

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