Former Skowhegan Fire Chief Tom Keene passed away Monday after being hospitalized with COVID-19 last week.

In a Facebook post made Tuesday morning, Sheryl Keene, his wife, described Tom as a loving husband, father, grandfather and friend.

“My husband has touched so many lives,” the post read. “He was so proud of our four children and his 6 grandchildren. We were so fortunate to have met and built a happy, loving and devoted life together … It was not an easy road juggling busy full-time jobs and raising our clan, but we truly loved every minute of it.”

Sheryl also wrote about Tom’s years working in the fire service.

“If you met Tom, you never forgot him. He worked many years protecting people and property,” the post read. “He had some wonderful mentors that taught him well, from his Dad, the Fire Chief in Norridgewock for 35 years, to Fire Chief Carl McKenney and others. Tom not only trained a lot of local firefighters, but he also was an instructor at the Maine Fire Academy when I first met him.”

Keene, 66, was admitted to Redington-Fairview Hospital in Skowhegan last Monday, according to an earlier Facebook post made by his wife, Sheryl.

“He was admitted late Monday night into the hospital. He is struggling with Pneumonia/Covid,” the post read.

Former Skowhegan Fire Chief Tom Keene died Monday from COVID-19. Keene suffered from diabetes and had both his legs amputated. The American Diabetes Association has said people who have diabetes are more likely to have serious complications from COVID-19. Morning Sentinel file

In a post made Sunday night, Sheryl said that Tom was in the special care unit.

“His lungs are full of pneumonia/Covid,” the post read. “They are concentrating strictly on comfort care at this time.”

Current Skowhegan Fire Chief Shawn Howard said the department is heartbroken over Keene’s death.

“It’s a tough loss for the community. Tom hired me right out of high school. I worked with him until his retirement,” Howard said during a phone interview Monday. “We stayed really close even after his retirement. We spoke several times over the days leading up to him being hospitalized … this is just very sad for this community.

Keene’s firefighting career began in Norridgewock where his father, Winton Keene Sr., was the chief.

Keene came to the Skowhegan Fire Department in 1976 and became chief in 1992. He retired from the department in 2001, but later returned as chief again in 2008.

Keene struggled with diabetes and had both legs amputated due to complications with the disease in 2011 and 2013.

Keene was terminated from his position in 2014 by former Town Manager John Doucette, who at the time said that Keene was incapable of performing the duties of a fire chief due to his amputations.

“I think Tom had fought a long battle with his illnesses, especially with diabetes,” Howard said. “But the fact that he overcame a lot of adversity with that, not many people could endure what he did.” 

According to the American Diabetes Association, people who have diabetes are more likely to have serious complications from COVID-19.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Howard said that a memorial or celebration of life for Keene will be postponed until the spring.

“His passing has left a huge hole in my heart along with all of our family members and special friends,” Sheryl wrote. “As the holidays approach please keep your loved ones protected as much as possible. Covid is not fake.”

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