Longtime Gurnee Fire Chief Samuel Dada dies at 91

  • Samuel J. Dada

    Samuel J. Dada

Updated 1/18/2021 8:06 PM

Former Gurnee Fire Chief Samuel J. Dada, who was so revered that village leaders named a street after him, died Friday at the age of 91.

Dada started with the department in 1948 when it was a volunteer outfit with three trucks run out of McClure's Garage and Towing. Six years later, he was Gurnee's fire chief, a position he held for 35 years.


Dada was instrumental in the department's evolution, according to the message announcing his death on the village website.

"He was a true servant of the community," current Gurnee Fire Chief John Kavanagh said. "The fire service, and the men and women of the Gurnee Fire Department, lost a great leader and friend."

Beyond his service with the fire department, Dada also was the superintendent of public works and a building commissioner for the village for a time.

"He was dedicated for decades to public service," Mayor Kristina Kovarik said. "He truly exemplified the greatest generation (and) the selflessness they showed in putting their community first."

Kovarik said she got to know Dada over the years from her involvement with the annual Gurnee Days celebration. She said Dada, who later moved to Arkansas, would return for the event every year and would spend time talking to old-timers and sharing tales of old Gurnee.

"His stories were just amazing, I can't picture Gurnee that way when it was small and had a volunteer fire department," Kovarik said. "I just so enjoyed visiting with him."

According to a history of the department written by Dada in 1978, the village's first fire hydrant was installed at Warren High School and was used both for filling the department's water tanks and for hauling water to residents' cisterns. He wrote that the department first hired dispatchers in 1958. Before then, daytime calls were answered at McClure's Garage and nighttime calls went to the homes of firefighters. In 1972, the volunteer fire department disbanded and a professional department was established.

According to funeral home information, Dada and his wife of 62 years, Corrine, had five children, 15 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren.

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