New Ipswich and Greenville firehouses pull together for fellow firefighter

Jim Feldhusen as Santa Claus with his wife, Adrian Feldhusen.

Jim Feldhusen as Santa Claus with his wife, Adrian Feldhusen. COURTESY PHOTO—

New Ipswich and Greenville firefighter Jim Feldhusen is seeking treatment for esophageal cancer possibly linked to his career in firefighting.

New Ipswich and Greenville firefighter Jim Feldhusen is seeking treatment for esophageal cancer possibly linked to his career in firefighting. COURTESY PHOTO—

New Ipswich and Greenville firefighters assisted the Feldhusen family with home upgrades last weekend.

New Ipswich and Greenville firefighters assisted the Feldhusen family with home upgrades last weekend. COURTESY PHOTO—

By ASHLEY SAARI

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

Published: 09-27-2023 11:51 AM

The New Ipswich and Greenville firehouses are pulling together for one of their own, Fire Capt. Jim Feldhusen, after his diagnosis of esophageal cancer, which is likely linked to his nearly 40 years as a volunteer firefighter.

Feldhusen has been a member of the New Ipswich department for the past 23 years, and joined the neighboring Greenville department about five or six years ago, but his work in firefighting started much earlier than that. He has been doing it since he was 18 and legally allowed to join.

“My father was a chief, and I was born and raised into a family of firefighters. It was the thing to do – help the community, do what you can; that was a value given to me by my father,” Feldhusen said. “It's a cross between a love and a calling. It's one of those things I’ve always done.”

That desire to give back to the community is now being repaid to Feldhusen after his cancer diagnosis several months ago. Last weekend, the New Ipswich and Greenville firehouses came together for a workday at Feldhusen’s New Ipswich home, helping to replace siding to winterize the home, and are raising funds for the replacement of the Feldhusens’ roof.

New Ipswich Fire Chief Gary Somero said Feldhusen is an integral part of not only the department, but the community, having been heavily involved in youth sports in the area. He also stepped in as New Ipswich’s building inspector after the person holding the position departed.

Feldhusen is also the department’s Santa Claus for its annual pictures-with-Santa fundraiser – which itself started as a way to support a fellow firefighter who had been in an accident.

“He’s a very active member of the community and of the department,” Somero said. “He’s always been a good asset for the town.”

The New Ipswich Fire Department has also started a GoFundMe campaign for the Feldhusen family to offset medical costs and lost income while Feldhusen recovers after an upcoming surgery and radiation treatments. After about six weeks, the page has raised nearly $10,000.

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Feldhusen admits it’s hard to be on the other side of the community’s support, as he’s usually the one helping. But he said the support from his firefighting family and the community as a whole has been extraordinary.

“The fire department is like an extended family. We all help each other. If someone needs something, we jump on and all help the best we can. I'm not used to being on this side of the fence,” Feldhusen said. “It's probably the perfect example of old-time community, where everyone gets together to help out. That's a rare thing anymore, and I feel truly blessed to be in a community like that. This is the kind of stuff you see on television shows. I just want people to know it exists in real life.”

Somero agreed, saying that firefighting is a “close-knit brotherhood,” particularly in the volunteering sphere, where departments are small and rely on their neighbors.

“We certainly appreciate the support of the firefighters and the people who have donated. It’s well-received and greatly appreciated,” Somero said.

Feldhusen said his doctors believe his cancer is linked to his firefighting. He noted that cancer rates are higher in firefighters in general, but a 2013 study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health found that firefighters have a 62% higher risk of getting esophageal cancer than the general public and a 39& increased risk of dying from it.

Feldhusen said he started his long career when not as much was known about safety standards, and encouraged those in the service to use the gear available now to increase safety.

“I started firefighting back in the day when we didn't have this great stuff. Today’s firefighters are much more protected, but if I could say one thing: Wear your gear. Be careful. Don't let this happen to you. We have the means  now,” Feldhusen said.

Donations in support of the Feldhusen family can be made through the GoFundMe page at gofundme.com/f/fundraise r-for-one-of-our-own, or by specifying a donation to the New Ipswich Fire Fighter’s Association, a 501(c)(3) organization, by sending a check to New Ipswich Fire Fighter’s Association, P.O. Box 324, New Ipswich, NH 03071

Ashley Saari can be reached at 603-924-7172, Ext. 244, or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on X @AshleySaariMLT.