'It's the right thing to do': Palatine honors of sacrifice of firefighters killed in 1946

Seventy-seven years have passed since Palatine firefighters Wesley Comfort Jr. and Leonard Nebel were killed in the line of duty.

The village has never forgotten their sacrifice.

On Sunday, at the downtown firefighters memorial just a short distance from the tracks where their fire truck collided with a passenger train, the Palatine Fire Honor Guard paid tribute to the two men.

"It's the right thing to do, to honor their memories," Mayor Jim Schwantz said, noting the symbolism of the memorial, which depicts a firefighter looking at the tracks where the crash happened.

The ceremony opened with members of the honor guard, including bagpiper Jeb Kaiser, marching down Brockway Street to the memorial. Kaiser later performed "Amazing Grace."

Firefighter Eric Jordan delivered the invocation and the speech, which paid tribute to the sacrifice of the volunteer firefighters.

They were responding from the Slade Street fire station to a reported fire at Smith Street and Dundee Road on Oct. 1, 1946, when their truck collided with a train at the Brockway Street crossing. There were no warning lights or crossing gates at the time.

Nebel, 41, who managed the National Tea Store in Palatine for 19 years, died at the scene, leaving a wife and five children behind.

Comfort, 24, a decorated World War II veteran who served under Gen. George S. Patton, and the son of the then-Palatine fire chief, died four days later in the hospital.

  An honor guard of Palatine firefighters lines up Sunday to pay tribute to two volunteer firefighters who died in the line of duty after their truck collided with a train on Oct. 1, 1946. Steve Zalusky/
  Firefighter Eric Jordan pays tribute to volunteer firefighters Leonard Nebel and Wesley Comfort Jr., who were killed in an Oct. 1, 1946, crash while rushing to a fire. Steve Zalusky/
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