By Joe Holden

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A bittersweet celebration for a man who has dedicated his life seeking justice for others. The Pennsylvania SPCA honored one of their own, now engaged in the fight for his life.

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It was a surprise gathering for George Bengal. We’re told he was the architect, a driving force behind the agency’s Humane Law Enforcement Department. George, a man who many said was a voice for the voiceless, said today will likely be his farewell.

“What I want more than anything is for this work to be carried on, fighting for animals,” George said.

George Bengal is now in a battle for his life. His work – 20 years as director of humane law enforcement at the Pennsylvania SPCA – is quickly coming to an unexpected end.

“I just want to see this work continue at the level, if not even higher than what it has been,” he said.

George has terminal cancer. He spent the last two weeks in the hospital. His hope is that what he started here continues on.

“George, you’re our guy, you can handle anything,” said Helene Van Buren, a SPCA board member.

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SPCA staff and friends on Thursday talked about George. A man they described as a true champion of animals, whose passion inspired them all.

“But all of us, when we walk through that door, we all have the same mission, and I don’t have to tell you what that mission is,” said Wayne Smith, enforcement officer for the SPCA.

“You will never be forgotten and your legacy of helping abused and neglected animals throughout the state, love you so much George,” Philadelphia Assistant Barbara Paul said.

George was a police officer as a well as a veteran. But perhaps his defining legacy — he’s referred to as an icon in the world of animal welfare. His plan would have been to carry on.

“I had a damn good career,” George said. “I have been blessed beyond, so I’m prepared for what’s going to happen to me.”

The agency tells CBS3 they have received hundreds of messages of best wishes and support for George.

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Of course his hope now, is the good work he started will continue on.