New England Patriots equipment manager Don Brocher, who was the longest-tenured employee in team history at 41 seasons, died early Tuesday morning after losing his battle with leukemia. He was 60 years old.
Brocher, who has been away from the Patriots most of the season while fighting the disease, had been entering his 19th year as the team’s equipment manager. He began working for the Patriots as a ball boy on the equipment manager’s staff in 1972 and moved his way up the ladder until being named equipment manager in 1994, shortly after Robert Kraft bought the team.
“The Kraft family and the entire Patriots organization awoke with very heavy hearts this morning,” Kraft said in a statement released by the team. “That is when most of us learned of Don’s passing. He had fought this deadly disease so valiantly all season long. We were all optimistic that he would defeat it and fully recover. He was back on our sidelines just two weeks ago for our game against the 49ers and I can’t remember ever seeing him happier. I am glad I had that opportunity to thank him once again for his loyalty and countless contributions to the team. My thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Laurie, and all who knew Don and are mourning his loss today.”
Brocher was diagnosed with leukemia in June 2012. When he didn’t make the trip south for the Patriots’ preseason game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, it marked the first game he had missed in 40 years (a streak of 834 consecutive games, according to the team).
Shortly after the team announced Brocher's death, former Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe posted this message to his Twitter account:
Our hearts go out to the Brocher family. Don was a big part if the #patriots organization for many years and a good man. May he R.I.P.
— Drew Bledsoe (@doublebackwine) January 1, 2013