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Hundreds of Firefighters Pay Respect to Fallen Comrade Daniel Capuano

By Howard Ludwig | December 18, 2015 6:53am | Updated on December 18, 2015 7:05am
Visitation for Fallen Fireman Daniel Capuano
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DNAinfo/Howard A. Ludwig

ASHBURN — Hundreds of firefighters gathered on Thursday night just outside St. Rita High School in Ashburn to honor fallen comrade Daniel Capuano.

Dressed in their formal uniforms on a chilly night, the sea of firefighters then marched two by two into the school's chapel at 7720 S. Western Ave. — pausing for a brief salute beside Capuano's casket.

The ceremonial walk-through was one of the many powerful moments on a somber night. Capuano, 42, was killed early Monday morning after falling two stories down an elevator shaft at a burning South Chicago warehouse.

The Mount Greenwood resident leaves behind a wife, Julie, and three children — Amanda, 16, Andrew, 13, and Nick, 12. The visitation service for the 15-year veteran of the Chicago Fire Department drew crowds from the moment the doors of the sprawling chapel opened at 3 p.m.

 A visitation service for fallen Chicago fireman Daniel Capuano was held on Thursday night at St. Rita High School's chapel in Ashburn.
Visitation for Fallen Fireman Daniel Capuano
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Steve Bowers of Hegewisch said he'll remember Capuano as an on-the-job teacher. Bowers said the fireman affectionately nicknamed "Fredo" for his likeness to the character from "The Godfather" movies worked at several suburban fire departments before joining the city crew.

Bowers said Capuano was eager to share what he knew. He even invited the younger Bowers to make a few extra dollars on a side business Capuano had started demolishing garages, kitchens and other tear down projects.

He did this extra work to be able to afford little extras, like tuition for his daughter at Mother McAuley Liberal Arts High School and for his two sons at Queen of Martyrs Catholic School in suburban Evergreen Park. Both of his boys also played travel hockey for the St. Jude Knights Hockey Club.

"That's all he talked about was his kids and the hockey," said Bowers, a seven-year veteran of the city's fire department.

Capuano maintained the off-ice workout facility for St. Jude. A mountain of a man towering more than six feet tall and weighing upward of 200 pounds, Capuano also oversaw the young hockey players' strength and conditioning training on Monday and Tuesday nights.

As an unprecedented sign of their appreciation, the hockey players held their own walk-through service just ahead of the firefighters. Clad in their forest green jerseys, Knights of all ages paraded past the casket of their fallen coach.

Jake Welinski, 12, has played with Capuano's son Nick since he first put on skates at age 8. He said Capuano kept training fun by telling jokes and playing a game called "tips" where players had to pass a ball around while jumping in the air.

Fellow players said they consoled Nick Capuano briefly at the visitation. Their teammate, in turn, promised them that his father "died doing what he loved."

Chicago fireman Pat Quane of Mount Greenwood said the outpouring of support from fire department personnel, St. Jude and others is a testament to the Capuano's character.

Both Quane and Capuano worked their way into the city's fire department by taking jobs in the suburbs. The pair served together as paramedics and also worked in Capuano's demo business.

"When my garage burned down, he was the first guy to back up the truck," said Quane, adding that the small fire in 2012 was quickly remedied due to Capuano efforts. This same eagerness to help out as well as crack a joke is what nearly everyone was talking about outside the chapel on Thursday night.

"He was a great guy to have in the house," Quane said.

A funeral Mass for Dan Capuano is scheduled for 10 a.m. Friday at St. Rita. After the service, a procession of fire trucks and other emergency vehicles will to take Capuano's body to Holy Sepulchre Catholic Cemetery & Mausoleum in Alsip.

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