As a lifetime career firefighter with the New London Fire Department and a strong community influence in Waterford, Gary Batch was known throughout both communities for his dedication to public service.
When he was diagnosed in September 2009 with mesothelioma, a cancer caused by an exposure to asbestos, his family knew time was of the essence. The lining in Batch’s left lung was removed, and he underwent radiation and chemotherapy treatments. He died in January 2011.
“It’s pretty much a death sentence,” his son, Jason Batch, said on Tuesday. “There is no cure. It takes about 30 or 40 years to become a cancer, so by the time you’re diagnosed, it’s not until stage three or four.”
To recognize his service to the community, the Gary Batch 5K Walk/Run will be held at Waterford Beach Park. All proceeds from the race will go to the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation.
So far, around $7,000 has been raised through registration or donations for the race.
“Pretty much right after he passed, my family started to become a little bit more involved in what mesothelioma is, because it’s so rare,” said Jason Batch, who lives in Monroe.
He said about 3,000 cases arise each year and few U.S. doctors specialize in treating the cancer.
“My dad had three main jobs right out of high school, and in all three of them, he was exposed to asbestos,” Batch said.
His father served in the U.S. Navy and was stationed on a submarine for three years, then worked as a pipefitter at Electric Boat for 2½ years before beginning his firefighting career.
“Some of their gear was actually lined with asbestos because it was a fire retardant, but there is no real way to pinpoint where it came from. There isn’t one easy place to look,” Batch said.
Sept. 26 is the second annual National Mesothelioma Awareness Day.