Kannaly pictured at Haven Hospice with firefighters from the Palatka Fire Department.

A group of firefighters from the Palatka Fire Department honored Haven patient Sean Kannaly, Sr. at the Roberts Hospice Care Center in Palatka.

Kannaly lived as a true public servant, saving countless lives during, and after, his more than 30-year career as a first responder. He served as a police officer, detective, emergency medical technician, fire chief and first responder instructor in cities across Florida and in the Bahamas.

Like many retired first responders, Kannaly struggled with loss of purpose toward the end of life. Haven Hospice RN Charlene Semidey stated how the days leading up to the firefighters’ visit had been particularly difficult for Kannaly. “That morning, he was really down. He wouldn’t even sit up,” Semidey said. Haven team members recognized Kannaly’s unique emotional challenges and customized his care accordingly, welcoming in a group of firefighters who resurfaced the memories of all that he had accomplished in his lifetime.

“After they came in, he was energized and cheered up. It was amazing. It improved his mood for the next two days,” Semidey said. Kannaly shared stories with the visiting firefighters using scrapbooks that he had filled with photos and newspaper clippings detailing the many crimes solved and fires extinguished throughout his career. His arms, covered in old burns, carry the scars from past rescues that he wears proudly.

Though Kannaly’s neighbor and close friend Jennifer Warner met Kannaly in his retirement, she got to witness him bravely jump into action to help people in need. Their homes sit alongside a dangerous curve in Grandin, FL, where there have been multiple car accidents, many of which have been fatal. Ms. Warner could recall multiple occasions where Kannaly was first on the scene, pulling passengers from burning cars and consoling survivors. “His whole life was public service,” Warner said.

On July 4, Kannaly wrote a letter to the staff at Roberts Care Center expressing his gratitude for the kindness and care they had shown him. “I hope all of you feel appreciated- You are!” Kannaly wrote. “All the love that is received cannot be measured.”

Kannaly began his police career in South Florida in 1977 and expanded his skillset to specialize in detective work and firearms instructing. He pivoted to firefighting in 1990 and retired to Grandin in the early 2000s after sustaining a traumatic head injury at a domestic violence call that ultimately made it difficult for him to continue his career.

Semidey, Kannaly’s nurse, said it was an honor to provide care for someone who had cared for others their whole life. She and other Haven staff grew close with Kannaly in his time at the local hospice care center. After a lifetime of public service, Kannaly died peacefully at the Roberts Hospice Care Center in Palatka, surrounded by people who cared deeply about him.