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updated: 4/18/2012 6:35 PM

Final bell sounds for fallen Huntley fire captain

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  • Rick West/rwest@dailyherald.com Mourners grieve after the funeral service for Huntley Fire Capt. John Winkelman at St. John's Lutheran Church in Union. Winkelman was killed in a motorcycle accident last week in Crystal Lake and because he was killed on duty, he received full firefighters honors during his service and burial.

      Rick West/rwest@dailyherald.com Mourners grieve after the funeral service for Huntley Fire Capt. John Winkelman at St. John's Lutheran Church in Union. Winkelman was killed in a motorcycle accident last week in Crystal Lake and because he was killed on duty, he received full firefighters honors during his service and burial.

  • Firefighters salute as the remains of their fallen comrade, Huntley Fire Capt. John Winkelman, is loaded onto Huntley Fire Engine #941 at St. John's Lutheran Church in Union. Winkelman's casket was wrapped in the American flag as the fire truck made the sad, solemn journey to Marengo City Cemetery.

       Firefighters salute as the remains of their fallen comrade, Huntley Fire Capt. John Winkelman, is loaded onto Huntley Fire Engine #941 at St. John's Lutheran Church in Union. Winkelman's casket was wrapped in the American flag as the fire truck made the sad, solemn journey to Marengo City Cemetery.
    Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • Mourners watch while firefighters secure the casket carrying Capt. John Winkelman onto Huntley Fire Engine #941 at St. John's Lutheran Church in Union. Winkelman, 54, lived in nearby Marengo and was killed last week in a motorcycle accident while on duty. More than 450 turned out for his funeral and five people eulogized him.

       Mourners watch while firefighters secure the casket carrying Capt. John Winkelman onto Huntley Fire Engine #941 at St. John's Lutheran Church in Union. Winkelman, 54, lived in nearby Marengo and was killed last week in a motorcycle accident while on duty. More than 450 turned out for his funeral and five people eulogized him.
    Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • Family members watch as the casket carrying Huntley Fire Capt. John Winkelman is loaded onto a fire engine at St. John's Lutheran Church in Union. Winkelman, 54, is survived by his wife Lynn, his daughters Sherie ONeil, Tara Swafford and Julie Winkelman, his stepsons Matthew and Richard Altepeter and seven grandchildren.

       Family members watch as the casket carrying Huntley Fire Capt. John Winkelman is loaded onto a fire engine at St. John's Lutheran Church in Union. Winkelman, 54, is survived by his wife Lynn, his daughters Sherie ONeil, Tara Swafford and Julie Winkelman, his stepsons Matthew and Richard Altepeter and seven grandchildren.
    Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • Fire engines from the Huntley Fire Protection District leave St. John's Lutheran Church in Union as part of the procession toward Marengo City Cemetery for the burial of Huntley Fire Capt. John Winkelman Wednesday. The engines silently flashed their lights in his honor.

       Fire engines from the Huntley Fire Protection District leave St. John's Lutheran Church in Union as part of the procession toward Marengo City Cemetery for the burial of Huntley Fire Capt. John Winkelman Wednesday. The engines silently flashed their lights in his honor.
    Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • Members of the honor guard wait outside while funeral services go on for Huntley Fire Capt. John Winkelman at St. John's Lutheran Church in Union. Winkelman, 54, of Marengo, was killed in a motorcycle accident last week in Crystal Lake.

       Members of the honor guard wait outside while funeral services go on for Huntley Fire Capt. John Winkelman at St. John's Lutheran Church in Union. Winkelman, 54, of Marengo, was killed in a motorcycle accident last week in Crystal Lake.
    Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • Firefighters from around the region salute as the casket carrying Huntley Fire Capt. John Winkelman is brought out of St. John's Lutheran Church after his funeral in Union Wednesday. Winkelman was killed on duty in a motorcycle accident last week in Crystal Lake, while on his way home from a committee meeting.

       Firefighters from around the region salute as the casket carrying Huntley Fire Capt. John Winkelman is brought out of St. John's Lutheran Church after his funeral in Union Wednesday. Winkelman was killed on duty in a motorcycle accident last week in Crystal Lake, while on his way home from a committee meeting.
    Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • Pallbearers escort the flag-draped casket that carries Huntley Fire Capt. John Winkelman out of St. John's Lutheran Church, following his funeral service. Russ Wilson, one of the pallbearers, said he and Winkelman joked about retiring at the same time to create a "mass exodus" at the fire protection district. "Winky, I love you," Wilson, a fire captain in Huntley, said through tears. "God bless."

       Pallbearers escort the flag-draped casket that carries Huntley Fire Capt. John Winkelman out of St. John's Lutheran Church, following his funeral service. Russ Wilson, one of the pallbearers, said he and Winkelman joked about retiring at the same time to create a "mass exodus" at the fire protection district. "Winky, I love you," Wilson, a fire captain in Huntley, said through tears. "God bless."
    Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • John C. Winkelman

      John C. Winkelman

 
 

In nearly equal amounts of laughter and tears Wednesday, mourners sounded the last alarm for Huntley Fire Capt. John "Winky" Winkelman, who was killed in Crystal Lake last week while riding his motorcycle.

More than 450 people filled St. John's Lutheran Church in Union for Winkelman's funeral, about 300 of them his own department and others -- among them Huntley, Carpentersville, East Dundee, Crystal Lake, Fox River Grove, Hampshire, Cary, Marengo and Pingree Grove. As well, firefighters' spouses rode a pair of chartered buses to the funeral so their other halves could carry out the funeral services and procession, Huntley Deputy Fire Chief Ken Caudle said.

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Winkelman, 54, of Marengo, was remembered as the quintessential man next door who could never sit still, who loved his job and had an eye for detail. For example, if you moved the sports section of his newspaper to another place or moved his chair just a few inches, he'd notice.

Winkelman, a 24-year veteran of the Huntley Fire Protection District was a man of few words, who preferred to silently analyze a situation before speaking, Huntley Fire Chief Jim Saletta said.

Even when the pressure was on, he never got rattled.

Huntley Capt. Scott Ravagnie remembered that as a rookie he battled one of his first fires on Manning and Big Timber roads. Winkelman, he said, took him under his wing, quietly coached him through it and never lost his cool.

"Your boots will be hard to fill and you will never be forgotten," Ravagnie said.

Winkelman also knew how to make people laugh.

There was the story about Winkelman dismantling a broken lamp to see what was wrong with it, only to find that the light bulb was burned out, said The Rev. Tim Schutt, chaplain of Marengo Fire and Rescue District and the church's pastor.

He also loved playing practical jokes on people by scaring them with a tap on the shoulder.

Huntley Deputy Chief Keith Mallegni knew Winkelman for 40 years and talked about his love of food, including pork rinds and kiwi fruit, and how Winkelman left a bottle of bourbon for him before he took off for a vacation.

"I love him, I'm going to miss him," Mallegni said through tears. "He was one of my best friends and they'll always be a special place in my heart for him and I thank the Lord I got to know him."

Winkelman was reared in Marengo and graduated from Marengo High School in 1976.

He was part of the Marengo Rescue Squad for 18 years and eventually became its chief. He worked as a volunteer firefighter for the Huntley Fire Protection District before joining full time in 1991.

To a man, he had a huge heart. He went down to New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to help, an action for which he won a humanitarian award. He was so gentle that squirrels ate food right out of his hand. He took to grooming the firehouse cat with his own comb.

Winkelman was killed Thursday while riding his Harley-Davidson in Crystal Lake on Route 176 near Mt. Thabor Road. Kimberly Randall, 27, of Woodstock was ticketed for running a stop sign. Winkelman was on his way home from a district communications committee meeting and died on duty, which meant he was entitled to full firefighter honors Wednesday.

During the service, Winkelman's three daughters read verses from the Bible. And as the bagpipers played "Amazing Grace" near the end of the service, many firefighters started to cry.

"We're still going to cry today and tomorrow and so forth," Schutt said. "And I'm here to tell you, that's OK. That's natural. That's life."

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