Above / Firemen’s Memorial Park, nestled along the roadside, is located at 1072 W. Jefferson Ave., just west of the DuPage River.
The sound of a bugle playing Taps resonated along the Riverwalk through Sindt Woods just after 8:30AM Thurs., May 25, coming from the direction of the Firemen’s Memorial Park along Jefferson Avenue.
Steps later, the scene just west of the Jefferson Avenue Bridge included uniformed Naperville Firefighters, City officials as well as friends and family who had come to the Annual Naperville Fallen Firefighter Remembrance Ceremony to pay tribute to the memories of Lieutenant Richard Rechenmacher, Engineer Jerry Herring, Firefighter Bernard Petrowski and Lieutenant G.S. Winckler.
According to an entry in the Illinois Fire Service Institute Firefighter Record, “On December 7, 1970, the Naperville Fire Department received an alarm at 7:55AM for a house fire west of the city. Firefighters immediately responded, but a fire truck carrying five firefighters collided with a semi-trailer truck at the intersection of Illinois Routes 59 and 65. Several fatal car accidents had occurred at the intersection during the preceding years and traffic lights had been installed at the intersection only two weeks prior to the accident.
“Lieutenant Richard Rechenmacher, Engineer Jerry Herring, and Firefighter Bernard Petrowski, who were riding in the cab of the fire truck, were all thrown from the vehicle by the collision and killed instantly. Firefighter Mike Hill, who was also riding in the truck’s cab, was taken to the hospital in critical condition, but Firefighter James Heinke, who was riding on the tailboard of the fire truck, escaped injury. Mutual aid responders from the Moecherville Fire Department responded to the house fire, and the Downers Grove Fire Department sent firefighters and fire apparatus to Naperville to assist with fire calls.”
Twenty-one years later, another IFSI incident report reads, “On October 18, 1991, Lieutenant George Winckler of the Naperville Fire Department died in the line of duty during a training exercise. Winckler, who had been with the department since 1965, suffered a heart attack during a live burn training exercise at the department’s training tower. About ten minutes into the exercise, Winckler exited the tower and collapsed. The other firefighters immediately started CPR and called an ambulance, and Winckler was taken to Edward Hospital where he was pronounced dead.
“On October 22, 1991, Winckler’s funeral was held at Ss. Peter and Paul Church in Naperville. More than 100 fire apparatus from neighboring departments took part in the funeral procession, in which Winckler’s casket was carried in an antique fire truck to Ss. Peter and Paul Cemetery.”
According to Ruthi Sommers at the Naperville Fire Department, every year in late May, officials hold the Naperville Fallen Firefighter Remembrance Ceremony at Firemen’s Memorial Park.
And every year the public is reminded of the risks local firefighters/paramedics are prepared to take every day in the line of duty as they serve to keep the community safe. In fact, members of fire departments around the world often are the first uniformed officials to arrive at fires, car accidents and other emergencies, likely the reason they have earned respect and the name of “first responders.”
Firemen’s Memorial Park is located at 1072 W. Jefferson Ave., just west of the DuPage River and the entrance to the Riverwalk.