FOXBORO — The new year started off on a somber note for the Patriots as they learned of the passing of Don Brocher, the longest-tenured employee in franchise history, to a season-long battle against leukemia.
Brocher, the team’s equipment manager, succumbed to the blood cancer early Tuesday morning after turning 60 on Nov. 23. The 2012 season was his 41st with the Patriots.
‘The Kraft family and the entire Patriots organization awoke with very heavy hearts this morning,’ said Patriots chairman and CEO Robert Kraft in statement released on New Year’s Day.
‘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 began working for the Patriots as a ball boy on the equipment manager’s staff in 1972 and was hired full-time as an assistant that season. He remained a member of the team’s equipment staff since then and was promoted from assistant to equipment manager in February of 1994, shortly after Kraft purchased the team. He was entering his 19th season as equipment manager and his 41st season overall with the Patriots when he was diagnosed with leukemia in June of 2012.
In August, when the Patriots traveled to Tampa for their preseason game against the Buccaneers , Brocher stayed behind. It was the first Patriots game he had missed in 40 years, snapping a streak of 834 consecutive Patriots games that he had worked, including 37 of the franchise’s 39 postseason games. He was proud to be a member of each of the franchise’s seven Super Bowl  teams and celebrated each of the Patriots’ three Super Bowl championships.
During his Patriots career, he handled the equipment needs for thousands of players during the tenures of 11 of the franchise’s 14 head coaches.
Brocher was born Nov. 23, 1952 in Boston. He and his wife Laurie have been long-time residents of Norton. Funeral services are not available at this time but will be distributed once the arrangements have been finalized.