(BALTIMORE) -- In his most trying times, Scott A. McElfish did not complain.
Since November last year, the Baltimore County police sergeant had endured surgery, radiation treatments, chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant. Like many cancer patients, he lost his hair, lost weight and had to deal with sometimes excruciating pain. And he knew his prognosis was grim.
But he remained steadfast. Afflicted with an aggressive cancer called Ewing's sarcoma, he wanted to complete two missions: take his family to Disney World and finish a tree house behind their Parkville home.
Two weeks ago, Sergeant McElfish, his wife Sharon, and their children, Brian, 12, Kelli 6, and Scott, 4, flew to Orlando, Fla., and spent a joyous week in the popular theme park. Near the end of their visit, Dec. 9, he developed breathing problems and was admitted to a nearby Celebration hospital.
Monday morning, Sergeant McElfish died. He was 34.
Those who knew him - from his family and the people he served to the chief of police - found his indomitable spirit moving, an inspiration.
"You met Scott once and you never forgot him. That's the impression he left you with," said Donald Crockett, an east-side activist who helped organize two fund-raisers for Sergeant McElfish and his family in Essex and Middle River.
"Scott made you redefine tough," county Police Chief Terrence B. Sheridan said. "He battled that cancer, his spirit never gave up. His loss will have a profound effect on everybody, but his life was something very special. It taught me a lot."
Ann Brady, his mother-in-law, said, "Through all of this, he was more concerned with his family than himself. He met every new battle. He was the rock."
Born in Baltimore, Sergeant McElfish came from a family of police officers. His grandfather, William McElfish Sr., served in the Maryland State Police, and his father, William McElfish Jr. of Baltimore, recently retired from the Baltimore County force. His brother, Shawn McElfish of Baltimore also is a county police officer.
A graduate of Archbishop Curley High School, he earned a degree in political science from Frostburg State University, where he played football and baseball.
He joined the county police in 1989 and continued his studies at the Catonsville campus of the Community College of Baltimore County and Towson University.
Though police work fascinated him, Sergeant McElfish knew that the young needed positive role models and understanding, especially in some of the hardscrabble neighborhoods of the county's east side.
"There is really no such thing as a bad kid; they just get conditioned that way," he said one afternoon in 1998 on the football practice field of Eastern Technical High School in Essex. He and another county officer, Jeff Boller, volunteered as assistant coaches, often after working long shifts on their law-enforcement jobs.
In 1998, Eastern Tech went undefeated and won the state 3A division championship.
Soon after he became ill, Sergeant McElfish returned to visit the varsity football squad during practice at Eastern Tech. As the noticeably lighter coach walked toward them, the team members gave him a standing ovation.
When news of his death filtered to the high school this week, several players left school early, shattered.
In the last year of his career, he was assigned light duty at the Parkville Precinct, near his home.
Before becoming ill, he received numerous awards, including the Maryland State Police certificate of appreciation in 1995 and a governor's award for crime prevention, and was chosen Police Officer of the Year in 1992 and 1993 by the Loch Raven Optimist Club and the Police Community Relations Council.
Sergeant McElfish's specialized training included hostage negotiations, serial-murder cases, psychological profiling, drug seizures and improved detection of child exploitation.
Those who knew him well say the mundane, everyday police work of traffic stops, domestic calls and counseling teen-agers mattered greatly to him.
"Scott enjoyed helping people. He had a passion for the job," said Officer Cole Weston, president of Baltimore County's Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 4.
But most of all, people's memories of him will be defined by his fight in the last year of his life.
"At some points in this past year, I know he cried, but he never, ever showed us," said his wife, Sharon. "He was the strongest person I ever knew."
She added that in the final months of her husband's disease, work on the tree house fell behind because he was so weak. Neighborhood friends will complete it, Mrs. McElfish said.
Services were held yesterday.
Sergeant McElfish is also survived by his mother, Andrea McElfish of Baltimore.
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