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updated: 2/24/2014 12:12 PM

Palatine remembers firefighters who made 'supreme sacrifices'

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  • Palatine firefighter Kevin Piasecki adjusts the equipment set in front of the Palatine Firefighters Memorial downtown Sunday before the annual ceremony honoring three volunteer firefighters who died in the line of duty Feb. 23, 1973. Firefighters John Wilson, Richard Freeman and Warren Ahlgrim lost their lives fighting a fire in the Ben Franklin store in the village's downtown.

       Palatine firefighter Kevin Piasecki adjusts the equipment set in front of the Palatine Firefighters Memorial downtown Sunday before the annual ceremony honoring three volunteer firefighters who died in the line of duty Feb. 23, 1973. Firefighters John Wilson, Richard Freeman and Warren Ahlgrim lost their lives fighting a fire in the Ben Franklin store in the village's downtown.
    Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

  • Richard Dolan and his daughter, Ashley, 14, listen during Palatine's annual memorial ceremony honoring firefighters who died in the line of duty. Volunteer Palatine firefighters John Wilson, Richard Freeman and Warren Ahlgrim lost their lives fighting a fire on Feb. 23, 1973 at a Ben Franklin store in the village's downtown.

       Richard Dolan and his daughter, Ashley, 14, listen during Palatine's annual memorial ceremony honoring firefighters who died in the line of duty. Volunteer Palatine firefighters John Wilson, Richard Freeman and Warren Ahlgrim lost their lives fighting a fire on Feb. 23, 1973 at a Ben Franklin store in the village's downtown.
    Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

 
 

Tracy Telesco was not yet 2 years old when her father, Palatine firefighter Richard Freeman, died in the line of duty.

On Sunday, Telesco attended a memorial service that honored her father, along with fellow firefighters John Wilson and Warren Ahlgrim, not far from the scene of the fire that killed all three more than 40 years ago in one of the community's most heartbreaking tragedies.

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"I'm here because this is the story of my father," said Telesco, who lives in Arizona. "Now that I'm married and have children of my own, it's important to me that their grandfather's memory lives on."

The fire occurred at 36 N. Brockway inside a Ben Franklin five-and-dime store. Volunteer firefighters Freeman, 25, Wilson, 40, and Ahlgrim, 32, were among those who responded to the scene on the cold morning of Feb. 23, 1973.

The three went into the building's basement, where they hoped to discover the source of the blaze. They would ultimately succumb there to smoke and carbon-monoxide inhalation.

Retired Palatine firefighter Mark Hallett led the annual memorial service, which took place next to the Palatine Firefighters Memorial at the corner of Brockway and Slade in downtown. The brief service included the lowering of the flag to half-staff and the ringing of a ceremonial bell. Uniforms bearing the names of Freeman, Wilson and Ahlgrim lay at the base of the memorial.

"We will never forget the supreme sacrifices that these men made," Hallett said.

David Freeman, Richard Freeman's brother and a resident of Palatine, said the fact that the village continues to honor the three who died in the Ben Franklin fire shows what how special a community Palatine is.

"The fire department is wonderful, but it goes beyond that," he said. "When I attend these I realize the depth and strength of the community that exists here."

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