Meet Jim Grimzer
Jim Grimzer had been born and raised in New York City for his entire life. He was the captain of the Fire Department of New York, which was no surprise as he came from a family of firefighters. He loved serving his local community.
The Dangers of the Job
While on the job, Jim had suffered a tragedy that left him confused about what he was supposed to do with the rest of his life. Nonetheless, he understood the dangers of his job but this situation hit home for him.
Losing a Good Man
Jim had lost a good man that was on his team. The team member was a young man who had recently joined the department. The captain had only met the new firefighter on a few occasions, but he still felt responsible for his men.
The Tragic Day
The grief that Jim had felt because of the Fire Department’s recent loss had eaten the captain up for weeks. He couldn’t seem to get himself out of the deep hole he had found himself in. That’s when a massive change came his way.
A Special Visit
Jim performed a surprise visit one day where he went to the scene of a mild situation and helped the team. The group resolved the issue and prepared to head back to the station. He wanted other firemen to know that he had his team’s back.
The New York Fire Department
FDNY has more than 10,000 firefighters working across the area at various stations. Due to this, many firefighters could have been at the scene on one specific day, but Jim was in the right place at the right time to experience something powerful.
The Special Request
A young boy walked up to Jim with a special request he wanted to ask. It was normal for Jim to have young and excited children come up to him to see the fire engine. However, he could immediately sense that this boy had something else in mind.
Meet Trucker Dukes
This young boy was named Trucker Dukes. He had been visiting the city for a relatively long time. To the young boy, New York City was the best place to continue his special interest. He wouldn’t have imagined that his dream would come true.
Trucker and his mom were staying in New York and resided in Ronald McDonald House. The pair were returning from an outing when the boy noticed the FNDY firefighters nearby. He became increasingly excited. That’s when he spotted the captain of the Fire Department.
Starting a Conversation
Trucker and his mother had planned to head home when they saw Jim walking back to his fire engine while at the scene of the call. That’s when the pair approached the captain and started a conversation with him where Trucker revealed his special request.
Trucker explained to Jim that he loved firefighters more than anything on the planet. His mother nodded in agreement with her son’s statement. Trucker was fascinated by the fire department. This was common but Jim was surprised to hear exactly how far this adoration went.
He Was Committed
Trucker’s mom, Sarah, had told Jim about the different trucks and ornaments her son kept that were related to firefighting. He wasn’t interested in any other topics or toys. The fire department was a massive part of the young boy’s life.
Trucker was dressed in regular jeans and a t-shirt, but he also had a firefighter jacket above this. Jim found this to be absolutely adorable and it also showed him how much Trucker cared about firefighting. Jim asked Trucker’s mom what inspired his love for firefighting.
Sarah told Jim that her husband was a firefighter. Due to this, Trucker had grown up hearing about firefighting and always visited his dad at the fire station. This touched Jim’s heart because it reminded him of his own family.
A Long Way from Home
Jim asked Sarah if her husband was part of the New York Fire Department, and he received a shocking answer. Sarah and Trucker were originally from Maui, Hawaii, and were returning there in a week. This was where Trucker’s father worked.
Everyone was puzzled by this because they would have expected Trucker to be in school in Hawaii. Sarah explained that he had neuroblastoma and was diagnosed two years previously. Sarah and her son were in New York for Trucker to receive treatment.
A Rare Condition
Neuroblastoma is a rare form of cancer that typically affects young children under five years old. There’s no cure for patients like Trucker who suffer from the disease. However, doctors can manage this, which is why Trucker comes to New York City.
Stage Four Cancer
The captain and his team were curious about why Sarah and Trucker were leaving New York City. Trucker was on stage four and the family decided that they would rather be together. There was nothing more they could do to help Trucker.
Even More Stress
Although Trucker’s body had endured a lot through his treatments, something else was causing him even more stress. His medication was taking a massive toll on his body. The doctors tried everything. He had gone through two surgeries and had chemo three times.
None of the treatments had worked to remove his tumor. There wasn’t anything else the doctors could do to help him. That’s why Sarah decided it would be best to take Trucker home to be with his family. This saddened everyone.
After hearing Trucker’s story, Jim was curious to hear the boy’s request. The young boy’s request was to be a firefighter. The captain stared at the boy and then hugged him. The entire team was touched and wanted to do anything they could.
Jim had one question for the boy. He wondered why he chose the FDNY instead of his dad’s department in Hawaii. Sarah had explained to Jim that Trucker had seen the captain in action and was fascinated by what he was doing.
Going the Extra Mile
Jim understood that Trucker cared more about becoming a firefighter than anything else. However, the captain of the fire station still wanted to make it more special than simply given the young boy a badge and taking a few pictures.
The captain finally came up with the right plan and quickly started getting it implemented before Sarah and Trucker left for Hawaii. Jim talked to his team and set a date for the young boy’s ceremony to become an honorary firefighter.
The Guest List
Jim was shocked when he found out what guests would be at the ceremony. He learned that Trucker’s dad and other relatives were flying to New York to come to the ceremony. This made him want to ensure everything went perfectly.
The Big Day
After being stressed for days before the ceremony, it seemed like Jim had been worrying about nothing. Trucker’s family was there to support him and Trucker’s father, Joshua, carried him to the podium and helped him recite his vow to become a firefighter.
A Happy Birthday
Trucker celebrated his birthday a few days after the ceremony. His birthday was filled with the young boy’s family and FDNY firefighters. Trucker’s greatest wish had been fulfilled. It was then that the family decided to make another important decision.
Ending His Treatment
It was going to be challenging to reveal their decision to the rest of their family, but Sarah and Joshua felt it was best for Trucker. They were ending his treatment. They wanted to keep him alive as long as possible, but not at the expense of living.
Once the family decided to end Trucker’s cancer treatment, the family decided that they wanted to live life to the fullest. This is what was later called Trucker Tough Challenge and it was shared across different social media platforms, which showed amazing experiences.
Trucker and his parents and three older siblings had their first adventure in British Columbia. The family was determined to let Trucker experience as much of the world as they could afford. They took a trip to Whistler to learn how to sled.
As a bigger family and contributing medical bills for Trucker’s treatment, Joshua and Sarah understood that it would a challenge to afford all of these activities and trips. However, it was worthwhile being able to see how happy Trucker was.
It wasn’t long before the Trucker Touch Challenge became a viral story. The Duke family was overwhelmed by the immense amount of support they received. Many individuals streamed and donated to their cause. Everyone was happy to see Trucker having fun.
Less than a year after being taken off his treatment plan, Trucker passed away. He was in his mother’s house in Hawaii when he died. The young son had fulfilled his dream of becoming an honorary firefighter and got to spend quality time with his family.
A Surprising Perspective
There’s no doubt that Trucker had passed away far too soon. However, his parents had little regret. They had done the best they could and given Trucker an amazing life filled with love and joy. They knew they needed to celebrate Trucker’s life even if saying goodbye was painful.
The firefighters in Hawaii and New York City were deeply saddened by the loss of Trucker. They all made sure to send their well wishes to his family. However, some of them wanted to do more than just this for the honorary firefighter.
The firefighters in Hawaii decided to come together and create a stunning memorial mural specifically for Trucker. It wasn’t just because his father was a firefighter for the department. Everyone understood his love for the fire service.
The Official Register
Another thing that the fire service did was add Trucker’s name to their department’s official register. This would ensure that the young boy lived on in memory within the fire service. His father took great comfort in knowing that his son’s name would appear alongside his own in the register.
Trucker’s father understood that the best way he could keep his son close to his heart was to continue working as a firefighter and do the job his son loved so very much. When he misses his son, Joshua visits his grave.
Even though it has been years since Joshua and Sarah lost their younger son, they still work to raise awareness for neuroblastoma. In addition to this, they also advocate for less harsh treatment to be used on younger children, like Trucker.
Sarah and Joshua were able to come out of this difficult time in their lives after losing their youngest child and work towards making life easier for others. They don’t want other parents and children to go through what they did during Trucker’s treatments, which is why they’re advocating for less harsh treatments.
Trucker’s father posted a heartbreaking tribute to his son on Instagram a month after he passed. It read: “My son, I love you so much! It was a month ago today that you left my arms and went home to be with the Lord. There is not a day that goes by where I don’t think about you and that I don’t miss you. I miss your contagious smile, your giggle, your spunk and zest for life and just how you loved so big. Thank you for being my son. Thank you for being so tough ( but snugly at the same time). Thank you for making my life so much more rich and fulfilling in your short 3 years here.”
There For Them
Throckmorton Ridge Fire Station and all of Marin County Fire Department was always there for Tucker’s family both before and after he passed. They always welcomed them with a huge #TrickerRidesWithUs sign in order to show solidarity with the family and their struggles.
Tucker’s family shared on Instagram: “All of Marin County Fire Department family has been such a blessing and encouragement in this time of loss. I guess this whole experience of love, community, connection and unity makes me feel like there is purpose in our pain and that God is using all things for our good. We have met some awesome people who will be life long friends all because our three year old, in a small town, on a small island got sick but God wanted his story shared.”
Finding Support All Over
While visiting the Hualapai Valley, Trucker’s family met a man named Chris who took this photo of them. He told them: “Your son is closer than you think! And I know because 20 years ago I too lost a son and we carry our children with us as we go forward.”
Trucker’s father wrote: “You being here alive sometimes feels like a dream. It was only two months ago today that you left but it seems like a full lifetime ago. I try hard not to forget the way your little kisses felt. I try and remember the way your skin felt when we snuggled. I think hard about the way your hair smelled when I kissed the top of your head as I tucked you into bed at night. I try and remember what your angelic voice sounded like when we would talk about life. Some days it seems like those memories are slipping away. I cry often thinking about that. My biggest fear in life is that I won’t be able to remember anymore and it devastates me. I miss you buddy. Every day I think about you and how much a joy you were to your dad to have around. I love you and hope Jesus comes back soon before my memories fade away like last nights dreams! God help my mind and memory to stay sharp. I don’t want to forget. I keep hoping that #TruckerRidesWithUs forever.”
On another leg of the #TruckerRidesWithUs tour, the family stopped by Lake Gavasu in Arizona. They said: “We spent a few days here fishing, swimming, paddle boarding, relaxing and even boating!!!! It was great to relax, reflect and regroup. We all had some good cries thinking about you Trucker boy. We miss you a ton but it has been amazing blessing people in your honor, spreading God’s aloha.”
Trucker’s Crossfit Workout
Crossfit often dedicates WOD’s (Workout of the Day) to fallen soldiers or those who passed away from a tough disease. This was also the case with Trucker. Crossfit Invictus dedicated a WOD to him, calling it the Trucker Dukes Hero WOD.
They Understood Each Other
One of the families that Trucker’s family met and bonded with was the VanSlyke family, whose son Atticus also battled cancer. They met his parents Melisa and Krys and his two sisters. They were able to meet Atticus before he sadly lost his battle with Neuroblastoma at the age of 2. The two families were able to help keep one another strong through these extraordinarily difficult times for both of them. The VanaSlykes helped inspire Trucker’s family to take the #TruckerRidesWithUs tour.
While the family was visiting Tombstone, Arizona, they decided to stop by Big Nose Kate’s Saloon and have a bit of fun by dressing up in Western style outfits and taking this old timey photo. They decided to include Trucker in their family photo so that they could all be in the photo together. After everything they’ve been through, it’s good to see them enjoying themselves a bit.
A Little Bit Of Baseball
The #TruckerRidesWithUs tour made a special stop in May 2017 where the family was invited to see a Major League Baseball game and join Kurt Suzuki on the field. The Atlanta Braves decided to share Trucker’s story with the fans in the stadium and honor his loving family.
Everyone Goes Home
Trucker’s family met with the firefighters at the Charleston Fire Department in South Carolina. The family and the firefighters were able to come together to remember Trucker, who would have loved to visit the fire station, as well as the fallen firefighters from the deadly fire that claimed 9 from the crew. The department’s trucks read: “Everyone Goes Home.”
The RV Trip
Trucker’s family’s #TruckerRidesWithUs tour spanned over four and a half months and saw them go through 22 states, 5 Canadian provinces, and 13000 miles. They collected stickers from all around North America and posted them on their official #TruckerRidesWithUs sign. The trip was full of tears, laughter, and most of all, memories of Trucker and how inspirational he was to all.
Trucker Dukes Week
Maui Mayor Alan Arakwa proclaimed March 10th through March 17th official Trucker Dukes Week in honor of the brave little boy. The week includes events that aim to raise funds for families of children fighting cancer as well as pediatric cancer research. The week also includes the Trucker Dukes Memorial Run.
Trucker Dukes Memorial Run
The Trucker Dukes Memorial Run was first held on March 17th, 2018 and its aim was to raise awareness and money for families of children battling cancer and creating a supportive community of resources. The run was a 5K run, 1 mile walk, or even a virtual run for those who were not able to be there in person.
What Would Have Been
On April 10th, 2018, Trucker would have turned five. His father wrote an Instagram post that read: “Today son you would have been five years old. When I wonder what you would be like, when I imagine what you would look like now, when I consider what you would want to do on your birthday, tears fall into my lap. My heart aches with a deep, dark pain. I am glad the weather is dark and gloomy outside. It matches my emotional state on the inside perfectly. A year has gone by. A tough year it has been. I am a different man now than I was March 3, 2017.”
Hall of Famer baseball player Rod Carew visited the Paia firehouse and shared with Trucker’s father his own difficult story. Carew’s daughter Michelle bravely fought cancer but sadly passed away. The two spoke about their difficulties and the wisdom gained after going through such a huge loss.
Time Keeps Passing
Trucker’s father posted: “Over a year now you have been gone. I still miss you everyday. Thank you for showing me how important the simple things in life are. Sometimes it’s ok to slow down and take a nap. Children are such a blessing and a gift. I pray I will continue to remember the memory of everything you were. Love you Trucker Boy.”
Found His Truck
Another post of his read: “I was working at my old fire station, Engine 6 Kihei, because they were short staffed. I had a brief moment that took my breath away. Checking out their fire truck collection, I came across Trucker boys first fire truck. Our ohana and Trucker had a lot of good times playing with this truck. There are so many memories, so much history here. I’m glad Trucker boy is a part of the Engine 6 legacy.”
A Father’s Grief
Trucker’s father Joshua Dukes has been very open online about how difficult losing his son is. He said: “I didn’t know heartache could hurt this bad. I am missing Trucker so much today. It’s like a thick cloud of grief is hanging over my head. I just can’t escape it.”
Four Years Later
March 3rd, 2021 marked 4 years since Trucker passed. His father posted: “I’m still an emotional wreck. It’s interesting to me how the darkness creeps up. I am so used to it now I don’t always recognize the grief when the dark clouds roll in. I feel the weight on my shoulders. I see the struggle I have making the simplest decisions. I’m moody for no reason. My physical energy and strength dwindles. Then it hits me, this is all part of grieving a loved one. It always happens this time of year. It’s your mind and your body trying to make sense of something that it shouldn’t have to. Dads are not supposed to bury their sons in the ground. I am grateful for the wisdom my wife gives me every year to take this day off, because I forget about it and try and power through the funk while my mind, soul and body are struggling to cope with this pain. It’s part of the process, feeling this way. I just wish it wasn’t this hard. Taking time to reflect and remember Truckers’s life is really important, but also extremely painful at the same time.”