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Retired FDNY firefighter who 'never let cancer define him' dies at 49 from 9/11-linked illness after three-year battle
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Lt. Edward (Eddie) McDonagh, 49, is survived by his wife, five children from two marriages, the oldest 20, the youngest just 6 years old, and a host of relatives. (FDNY)

A retired FDNY lieutenant and father of five is the latest first responder to succumb to cancer, contracted during his time working the pile at Ground Zero, authorities said Tuesday.

Lt. Edward (Eddie) McDonagh died Sunday after a three-year battle against stage 4 colon cancer, relatives said. He was 49.

McDonagh is the 20th firefighter to die of a 9/11-related illness this year.

The Rockland County man joined the FDNY in 1996 after serving in the Marines during the Gulf War, relatives said.

He was the first of his family to join the FDNY, but firefighting was in his blood, his widow Kimberly McDonagh said.

“It was part of who he was, right there with the Marine Corps,” she said. “They were his brothers. At the FDNY they weren’t just co-workers, they were family.”

After the Sept. 11 terror attacks, McDonagh spent the three months taking part in recovery efforts. He returned to Ground Zero intermittently for the next six months, relatives said.

He was diagnosed with colon cancer on March 26, 2014.

'Heroic' retired NYPD cop dies from 9/11-linked cancer

“He never let cancer define him,” his widow, Kimberly McDonagh, 47, remembered. “For three and a half years we took trips, celebrated life and made memories.”

He retired in July last year. His last assignment was Engine 37 in Harlem, an FDNY spokesman said.

“He may have had cancer, but he was still a human being,” McDonagh said. “He lived his life on his terms and cancer wasn’t going to stop it.”

McDonagh’s sister said the smoke eater met the disease head-on, taking every possible treatment to combat it.

Agent can't get benefit as feds disagree on 9/11 cancer diagnosis

“He was in for the long haul and gave it every shot he could,” Diedre DiFrancesco, 49, said.

McDonagh is survived by his wife, five children from two marriages, the oldest 20, the youngest just 6-years -old.

He is the 164th FDNY member to die of a 9/11-related illness.

An additional 133 NYPD members have died of sicknesses attributed to the attack aftermath, police said.

As of Aug. 31, the federal September 11th Victim Compensation Fund has distributed $2.5 billion for medical and living costs to 11,524 city first responders who either raced to the World Trade Center on 9/11 or worked at Ground Zero in the aftermath of the terror attack.

An additional 21,652 claims are under review.

Services for McDonagh will begin Saturday at the Michael J. Higgins Funeral home in New City, Rockland County.

A funeral Mass will be held Monday at 11 a.m. at St. Francis of Assisi Church in West Nyack, Rockland County.  

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