Paying Tribute To Fallen at Naperville Firefighter Memorial Ceremony

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Fire department personnel both past and present joined community members Wednesday morning at Firemen’s Memorial Park on Jefferson Avenue to pay tribute to Naperville firefighters who died in the line of duty.

Fallen Firefighters Remembered

“Back in 1970, on this date 52 years ago, we lost three of our members of the department, in a very tragic incident as they were responding to a call, they were struck by another vehicle and three of our firefighters were killed instantly,” said Naperville Fire Chief Mark Puknaitis.

Engineer Jerry Herring, Lieutenant Richard Rechenmacher, and firefighter Bernard Petrowski were remembered at the Firefighter Memorial Ceremony.

Chief Puknaitis spoke in memory of them, and also Lieutenant George Winckler, who died of a heart attack during a training exercise back in 1991. The four are honored year-round with a statue that stands within the park.

“We had this statue actually built specifically to memorialize those who we’ve lost,” said Puknaitis. “And we pay tribute not only to those that were lost from the Naperville Fire Department but those around the state, and those around the country.”

Firefighter Memorial Ceremony

The ceremony began with an invocation from Naperville Fire Department Chaplain Kurt Lange, and included a special wreath laying tribute and salute.

Though the department welcomes the yearly event, it also hopes not to add any future names to its tribute.

“The fire department, the fire service is even much more than a profession, it’s much more than a job – it really is a calling,” said Puknaitis.  “And when everybody comes to work everyday, they don’t know what they’re going to be able to see or experience, or what they’re going to be called to do in their duty.”

A work family united in service, coming together in tribute for those who’ve paid the ultimate price.

“So thank you for remembering. Thank you for being here. And as we say, we never forget,” said Puknaitis.

Naperville News 17’s Kim Pirc and Patrick Codo report.

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