Firefighter who died in Arizona returns to suburbs
Firefighters from the Chicago area and Wisconsin gathered Wednesday night at Waukegan Regional Airport to honor one of their brothers who was among 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots to perish while battling an Arizona wildfire.
An urn containing the cremated remains of Anthony Rose, 23, arrived at the airport from Arizona about 8:15 p.m. Rose, who attended Gurnee Elementary District 56 schools, lived in Beach Park and Wadsworth before moving to Arizona as a teenager.
More than 200 firefighters from Illinois and Wisconsin were lined up as the aircraft arrived. Two water cannons sprayed an arch above the airplane as it came to a stop near the terminal.
An Associated Fire Fighters of Illinois honor guard presented colors near the plane. Among the firefighters in the honor guard were Chris Coburn of Matteson and Wendell Thomas of Chicago Heights.
Similar to the other firefighters who came to the airport, neither Coburn nor Thomas knew Rose, but said all in the profession share a bond that compels them to support each other in tragedy.
"It's a bond that's shared by anyone and everyone," Thomas said. "As far as being a firefighter, you identify with those guys. You could be anywhere in the country, anywhere in the world, and you meet some firefighter, you have that instant bond with them.
"We typically fight structure fires, building fires and that nature, whereas Anthony, he fought mostly wildland fires. But the one thing we have in common is we all fight fires. We all do the same job, whether we're full time, part time, paid-on-call, volunteer — whatever it is. We all do the same job."
Coburn said he knows his family would appreciate the support from the firefighting fraternity they never met if something were to happen to him.
"We're paying it forward," Coburn said. "It's for (Rose) as much as it is for his family."
Rose, known as Tony by friends and family, had been a firefighter in Arizona for about five years. He started with the Crown King Fire Department, then joined the Granite Mountain Hotshots.
Based in Prescott, Ariz., all but one of the Hotshots died June 30 when a wind-whipped wildfire overran them on a mountainside north of Phoenix.
On Tuesday, Vice President Joe Biden and firefighters from across the country were among those who attended a memorial service for the 19 fallen Hotshots in a Prescott arena. The crew's lone survivor, Brendan McDonough, spoke at the memorial.
Rose attended Zion-Benton Township High School from 2004 to 2006. His mother, who still lives in Beach Park, Athena Rose Sperry, remembered her son as someone who became a firefighter because he wanted to help others.
Rose's fiancee, Tiffany Hettrick, is pregnant and is expecting a girl.
Visitation for Rose is set from 5 to 9 p.m. Thursday at Congdon Funeral Home, 3012 Sheridan Road in Zion. Along with his mother and fiancee, survivors include father Michael Sperry, sister Rhonda Sperry and brother Alexander Sperry.
Home: Firefighter's widow expecting a girl
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