Residents came out in full force late Saturday in Evergreen Park to pay tribute to the late firefighter Dan Capuano, whose memory was honored with a dedication service and renaming of the ice rink at 9000 S. Kedzie Ave.
Capuano, 42, served as a part-time Evergreen Park firefighter for 16 years. He was also a Chicago firefighter for 15 years. Capuano, 42, died in an abandoned warehouse fire on Chicago’s Southeast Side on Dec. 14.
He left behind his wife, Julie, and three children, Amanda, Andrew and Nick to mourn his loss. He was known as devoted family man and was active in coaching his sons in hockey, which made the remaining the rink in his memory fitting.
Mayor James Sexton announced last month that he and the board of trustees had agreed unanimously to honor Capuano by renaming the ice rink.
“We could think of nothing more appropriate to honor this young man, who made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty, than to name this facility after him. He spent many hours at the rink, coaching his two sons and other youngsters in the game of hockey,” said Sexton.
More than 300 people gathered in the Evergreen Park Fire Station, located directly south of the ice rink, as the dedication ceremony began. It was a multi-generational group comprised of senior citizens, young families with babies in strollers and toddlers, in tow, and large groups of high school students and young adults.
“There are a lot of good people here today,” said Sexton.
First to speak was Village Fire Chief Ronald Kleinhaus, who thanked everyone for coming out in honor of the Capuano family.
“We were honored to know him not only as our brother in the department, but we were honored to know him as our friend. He will be long-remembered for the good man he was,” said Kleinhaus. “Losing him has been a tremendous loss, both for us personally as fellow firefighters, but for our community as well. He will be greatly missed.”
Sexton said Capuano was a giving man.
“He was devoted to his family, first and foremost. He gave to the community through his work, he generously served his church, Queen of Martyrs, which he loved and he was a dedicated coach for the St. Jude Hockey Club.” said Sexton. “It was never about Dan. For him, it was always about others and what he could do for them. With this memorial located so near the fire station, Dan will be remembered on every call, with each truck that leaves the fire house.
“We are honoring Dan Capuano here today, but I also want to say thank you to all of our first responders, for all that you do to keep our community safe,” added Sexton.
Chicago Fire Commissioner Jose Santiago, said, “We are honoring our brother here today with this beautiful memorial, by which he will be remembered. Fifty years from now, a child will be skating here and will ask, ‘Who is Dan Capuano?’ And Daniel V. Capuano will be remembered.”
The Rev. Benedykt Pazdan, pastor at Queen of Martyrs Parish where the Capuano family attends church and school, officiated the service, offering Intercessions and the prayer of blessing.
Sexton then invited the group to move to the site of the memorial, immediately north of the fire house, for the unveiling of the plaque. Following a prayer by Pazdan, Capuano’s widow and the three children unveiled the memorial revealing a large stone on which was placed a beautiful red plaque bearing a photo of Capuano wearing his firefighting gear.
Next to the photo is a block of text telling the story of the tragic accident that took his life. Emblazoned across the top of the plaque, in large gold letters is his name, “DANIEL V. CAPUANO.” Underneath his name it reads, “September 27, 1972 – December 14. 2015.” At the bottom of the plaque are the words, “Dedicated on February 20, 2016.”
In addition to the memorial stone, a new sign has been added near the roof of the ice rink. It reads, “Village of Evergreen Park, Daniel V. Capuano Ice Rink, Dedicated February 20, 2016.” On the bottom left side of the sign is the logo of the Evergreen Park Fire Department and on the right is the Chicago Fire Department logo.