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Andrew J. Bouquard, 43, Roswell Park researcher who dedicated his life to paying it forward

Andrew J. Bouquard is pictured at home with his wife Christa and son Brendan.  Photo provided by Bouquard family.

April 23, 1975 – March 7, 2019

Andrew J. Bouquard was 19 when doctors discovered his cancer. He received a bone marrow transplant the day before his 21st birthday and he lived in remission until he died unexpectedly Thursday after he was stricken on his way to work at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center.

He was 43.

“I look at it like he’s had two lives, before and after he was sick,” said his brother, Kevin. “His second life is where he shone. He found his place. I still am kind of wondering the reason why he is gone.”

Mr. Bouquard, of Orchard Park, was a senior research specialist at Roswell Park for 16 years. During his illness, he sought treatment there, and he told family members he would return one day to help others, his brother said.

“Roswell was a big part of his life because they saved his life,” Kevin Bouquard said. “People would call, and he would talk to them and help them through their disease. He knew a lot of people. He was very inspirational. We always joked that he was the mayor of Roswell because everyone knew him.”

Mary Sekelsky recalled her nephew’s skill in mentoring young cancer patients.

“He helped them understand what they were going through, that they would get better,” Sekelsky said. “He encouraged them. He taught some of them to play hockey when they got better.”

Mr. Bouquard spent his childhood in West Seneca, the youngest of John and Joan Bouquard’s three sons. The family was defined by hard work, hockey and annual road trips taken during spring break in a pop-up camper to Fort Wilderness in Disney World.

“We’ve been to Disney World 26 times,” said John Bouquard. “The boys used old road maps to follow the route. They’d notice how the grass was getting greener, the red clay of Georgia and finally the palm trees. We’d stop in the same places every year. Put up the awning, pulled out the bunks, and as soon as we’d get home we’d make reservations for the next year.”

Mr. Bouquard grew up in that close-knit family: three hockey-playing boys, a mother who taught nursery school and his father, who was born in the First Ward, worked in the grain elevators, the steel plant and on the railroad.

Mr. Bouquard graduated from West Seneca East High School. His diagnosis with non-Hodgkins lymphoma was a wake-up call for his family. It sparked a new-found determination in her youngest son, said Joan Bouquard.

“He was determined that once he got through and recovered, he would go back to school to get his degree,” said his mother. “Before he went through cancer, he didn’t know what he wanted to do. He was working at a pizzeria.”

Mr. Bouquard graduated from the University at Buffalo with a degree in biology. He worked at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston before taking the position at Roswell Park. He married Christa Reilly, a hospice nurse. They have a son, Brendan, who turned 11 on Wednesday. A second child is due in June, Kevin Bouquard said.

As youth hockey coach for Southtowns Stars Amateur Hockey Association, Mr. Bouquard shared his hockey skills with many children, including his son. He served on the board of directors for 11-Day Power Play, a national charity hockey tournament that in Buffalo raises funds for Camp Good Days, Make-A-Wish Foundation and Roswell Park.

He also joined his brothers at the Labatt Blue Pond Hockey tournaments as the Buffalo Brewsers.

“I remember he said he wasn’t feeling good during pond hockey, but he insisted he could play, and he did,” his brother said. “He had problems breathing when it was really hot or cold. Doctors said he had the lungs of an older man. They were damaged when he had cancer.”

Mr. Bouquard used his drive time into Buffalo to catch up with family members on the phone. On the day he died, he had just arrived at work, parked his car and texted his brother to remind him of an upcoming captain’s meeting for 11-Day Power Play before starting the short walk to the hospital, Kevin Bouquard said.

“That’s when he collapsed and fell into a snow bank,” his brother said. "He was taken to Buffalo General Medical Center, where he died."

Saturday at the Buffalo Irish Center, friends, co-workers and family members gathered to tells stories and talk about Mr. Bouquard’s legacy.

“He was the younger brother, but the way he carried himself and the way he cared for others was genuine and selfless,” Kevin Bouquard said. “He made me want to take care of people, help people. He took charge of things because he went through a lot himself.”

A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 11 a.m. Tuesday, March 12, at St. John Vianney Catholic Church, 2950 Southwestern Blvd., Orchard Park.

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