Naperville Fire Department’s Fallen Firefighter Memorial Service 2021

Thursday night the Naperville Fire Department hosted a Fallen Firefighter Memorial Service.

Fallen Firefighter Memorial Service

The event, which took place next to Naperville’s Ladder of Light sculpture, honored firefighters who lost their lives in the line of duty.

The Naperville Fire Department remembered their very own; Lieutenant Richard Rechenmacher, engineer Jerry Herring, and Firefighter Bernard Petrowski who all died in a fire truck crash in December of 1970, as well as Lieutenant George Winckler who died during a training exercise in October of 1991.

Remembering Those Who Have Fallen

“The main reason why we stand here today is because this memorial is dedicated to four individuals that lost their lives,” said Naperville Fire Chief Mark Puknaitis. “Three individuals on that tragic day on December 7, 1970 when a Naperville Fire Apparatus was driving on the way to a call to a fire, at the intersection of Route 59 and Aurora Avenue, suddenly collided with a fully loaded coal truck. [It] caused the engine to suffer a massive accident and all three of the individuals on board died instantly.”

Puknaitis added that Lieutenant Winckler died as a result of a massive heart attack. The Naperville Fire Department has not had a line of duty death since, Puknaitis said.

Ladder of Light

The ceremony took place right next to Naperville’s Ladder of Light statue. It honors the fallen firefighters with an eight foot high sculpture of a firefighter climbing a ladder, which is represented by two beams of light going up the side.

Naperville artist Paul Kuhn, who created the sculpture, said it was an honor to create the commemorative art piece.

“Trusting someone to make a sculpture for a memorial is something that once you’re entrusted with you take it serious,” said Kuhn. “It makes it so easy to work so hard for something because you know what is at stake.”

The memorial service brought out members of Naperville City Council, Congressman Bill Foster, residents, and the families of Naperville’s fallen firefighters.

Those family members were presented with a floral wreath in front of the Ladder of Light statue, while everyone in attendance stood watch as bagpipers played Amazing Grace.

Naperville News 17’s Christian Canizal reports.

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