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Our Lady of the Angels (OLA) School Fire, December 1, 1958

Heroes of the OLA Fire

The OLA fire produced many Heroes, including:

Firefighters   Police Officers   Medical Personnel   School Staff   Civilians

These Heroes:

  • Rescued victims from the burning school or helped facilitate rescue efforts;
  • Helped transport victims or otherwise helped them receive needed treatment;
  • Helped extinguished the fire or facilitated firefighting efforts;
  • Provided aid and comfort to frightened or injured victims;
  • Provided medical and nursing care for injured victims;
  • Helped remove and identify bodies in the aftermath;
  • Comforted, protected or assisted distraught family members.
This page celebrates those who helped, or attempted to help, fire victims.

NOTE: THIS PAGE IS IN PROGRESS - If you know of others who should be included here, or if you have information or photos for anyone listed, please contact webmaster.

 
Thank you to the Fire Museum of Greater Chicago (Bill Kugelman and Fr. John McNalis) for providing a tremendous amount of information for this page.

Thank you to Joe Murray for sharing his vast knowledge of both the Chicago Fire Department and the OLA fire for this page.

 
Firefighters
 
Harold V. Abbinanti Fireman, Engine 105
Abbinanti helped carry victims, including Sister Therese, down a ladder from room 212, once firefighters were able to enter the room.
 
Edward H. Aitken Driver, Battalion 24
No information available. If you have information about Edward H. Aitken, please contact webmaster.
 
George J. Albrecht Engineer, Engine 111
No information available. If you have information about George J. Albrecht, please contact webmaster.
 
Salvador Amati Fireman, Engine 7
Amati joined the Chicago Fire Department in November 1954, and was soon assigned to Engine 7. On the day of the fire, the alarm office sent Engine 7 in place of another company that happened to be unavailable. At the fire, Engine 7 was used as a truck company, although they also did some engine work. Today (2012), Amati is the last surviving member of Engine 7.
 
Albin Anderson Fireman, Squad 6

[2007]
Twenty-eight year old Anderson was a member of Engine Company 68 and Rescue Squad 6, which was among the first units to arrive at the fire. Because they had been given the address of the church instead of the school, Squad 6 parked their rig on Iowa Street in front of the church. They saw soot covered children running out of the church and were just about to enter the church, where they assumed the fire was, when someone yelled that the fire was in the north side of the school. They ran around the corner of the school and immediately found the actual location of the fire, in the north wing of the school.

Anderson and a couple of fellow squad member, carrying two heavy wooden ladders, came to the courtyard where they saw children hanging and jumping from the windows of rooms 211 and 209. After helping break down the gate in the iron fence enclosing the courtyard, they hoisted their ladders up to two of the windows of room 211. Anderson scaled the ladder and started trying to pull children out, but the room flashed over about then and flames were shooting from the window. He was forced back down by the heat, so he set about caring for injured children in the courtyard.

Once the fire was extinguished, he helped recover bodies from the school. Later in the evening, he helped pump water out of the basement and performed other mop up operations. Anderson and his exhausted fellow Squad 6 members finally returned to their company quarters shortly after 11 pm.

 
Nathaniel “Andy” Anderson Fireman, Engine 12
Anderson was a member of Engine 12, who responded to the fire shortly after 3 pm. He was among the first firemen to discover the dead children in rooms 212, 210 and 208. From his daughter, Francine Atkins: “Andy was forever haunted by the memory of the discovery of the dead children piled underneath the windows in the second floor classrooms. It was the single worst thing he experienced in his career as a firefighter. He died last year [2014] but he was the best father anyone could ever have.” Nathaniel was married for 62 years.
 
James Bailey Deputy Marshal
Bailey, a CFD Deputy Marshal, entered the school via the north-side second floor windows once the fire had been subdued enough to allow it. But by then, there was no one left to save.
 
Jim Barret Fireman, Engine 105
No information available. If you have information about Jim Barret, please contact webmaster.
 
Fred C. Becker Captain, Truck 36
Becker was in charge of Truck 36, which was among the first companies to start rescuing children. Once the fire was out, he also helped carry victims from the building. Years later, he said that of all the fires he responded to, the OLA fire haunted him most. Even years later, recalling the OLA fire caused him to become very emotional. Fred passed away in 1990.
 
William Bingham Senior Fire Alarm Operator
Bingham was a Senior Alarm Operator working in the Chicago Fire Department Alarm Office on December 1, 1958. At 2:42 p.m. he answered the first of sixteen telephone calls reporting the fire at Our Lady of the Angels. After the first call, from rectory housekeeper Nora Maloney, he quickly determined which fire companies were nearest the school and sent a “still alarm” to those companies, Engine Company 85 and Truck Company 35, along with Battalion 18, Squad 6 and Patrol 7. The first of these units arrived on scene less than four minutes after Bingham took Nora Maloney's call.

During World War II, Bingham served as a radio operator and gunner on a B-24 Liberator. In March, 1945 while on a mission over Italy, an engine on his plane exploded, forcing the crew to bail out and parachute down. A farmer helped reunite him with American forces.

After the war, he was married, started a family, and joined the Chicago Fire Department. He retired after a long career with the fire department in 1990, and moved to Florida with his wife. William passed away on August 5, 2013.

 
Daniel E. (“Damian”) Bodnar Fireman, Truck 26
Bodnar was a young member of Truck Company 26. He become a fireman in 1956 and went on to a distinguished career in the fire service. He passed away in May 2010 at age 81.
 
Fred A. Boettcher Tiller, Truck 46
No information available. If you have information about Fred A. Boettcher, please contact webmaster.
 
Peter G. Borchek Fireman, Truck 7
Borchek was a member of Truck 7. He passed away on March 6, 2006.
 
Edward J. Brabec Engineer, Engine 43
No information available. If you have information about Edward J. Brabec, please contact webmaster.
 
John Brandt Fireman, Squad 10
No information available. If you have information about John Brandt, please contact webmaster.
 
Francis L. Brannigan Fireman, Truck 26
Brannigan was a member of Ladder Company 26. He later became chief of the Port Republic, Maryland Fire Department. Designated one of the 20 people who most influenced the fire service in the 20th century, Brannigan has been honored as a fellow by the Society of Fire Protection Engineers, even though his degree isn't in engineering. He is the author of Building Construction for the Fire Service, Third Edition, published by the NFPA.
 
Thomas P. Breen Ambulance 3
No information available. If you have information about Thomas P. Breen, please contact webmaster.
 
Hilary G. Briesch Fireman, Engine 114
No information available. If you have information about Hilary G. Briesch, please contact webmaster.
 
Hal Bruno Volunteer Fireman, Squad 2; Reporter
Bruno was a reporter for the Chicago American Newspaper and a part-time volunteer fireman. On his days off from the newspaper, he often rode along with Squad 2. Such was the case on December 1, and as a result, Bruno was one of the first reporters on scene. He assisted other firefighters on the roof of the south wing, before reverting to his role as reporter.
 
George Buck Engineer, Engine 95
Buck was an engineer with Engine Company 95, which responded to the box alarm placed at 2:44 pm. He retired soon after the fire.
 
John A. Burita Fireman, Engine 117
No information available. If you have information about John A. Burita, please contact webmaster.
 
Henry Buthman Engineer, Engine 68
No information available. If you have information about Henry Buthman, please contact webmaster.
 
Rocco Cantore Ambulance 10
No information available. If you have information about Rocco Cantore, please contact webmaster.
 
T.J. Carroll Fireman, Engine 106
No information available. If you have information about T.J. Carroll, please contact webmaster.
 
William Chambers Ambulance 13
No information available. If you have information about William Chambers, please contact webmaster.
 
Ralph C. Clark Fireman, Engine 85
Clark was a member of Engine Company 85, the first Company to arrive at the fire. He worked with Henry Holden, Charles Robinson, and other firemen to rescue children from room 212.
 
Robert Clausen Fireman, Squad 2
No information available. If you have information about Robert Clausen, please contact webmaster.
 
Patrick Connors Fireman, Ambulance 8
Connors and driver Richard Harrington manned one of the many ambulances that responded to the call for “every available ambulance.” Over the next four hours they made multiple trips to the county morgue transporting the bodies of young victims.
 
Harold P. Corrigan Fireman, Squad 10
No information available. If you have information about Harold P. Corrigan, please contact webmaster.
 
John Patrick Crawford Fireman, Engine 85
John (Jack) Crawford was off duty and working at a second job when he heard a radio news report about the fire and rushed to the scene. He helped load the bodies of victims into ambulances and squadrols. His son, Bill, recalls that day as “the one and only time in my life I heard my father cry.”
 
James T. Creighton Lieutenant, Engine 117
No information available. If you have information about James T. Creighton, please contact webmaster.
 
Dennis Curtin Engineer, Engine 117
No information available. If you have information about Dennis Curtin, please contact webmaster.
 
Charles Cuthbertsen Fireman, Truck 35
No information available. If you have information about Charles Cuthbertsen, please contact webmaster.
 
Raymond J. Daley Division Marshal
Daley was a CFD Division Marshal, and the first high ranking official to enter the second floor via the windows on the north side, but it was too late.
 
Raymond F. Danowski Fireman, Squad 7
No information available. If you have information about Raymond F. Danowski, please contact webmaster.
 
Leroy K. Dean Captain, Squad 2
Dean was one of the first firemen to enter the classrooms from the interior by breaking through walls and doors.
 
Harry Demopoulos Fireman, Truck 35
No information available. If you have information about Harry Demopoulos, please contact webmaster.
 
Miles J. Devine Chief, Battalion 18
Devine was the Battalion Chief of the 18th Battalion. He responded with the Still Alarm companies, the first on scene. When he arrived, all he saw was chaos - children hanging from windows, screaming, jumping and falling. Some adults were attempting to catch falling bodies. Children were limping around in a daze, or just sitting glassy eyed. Some some lay motionless on the concrete. Others were being carried away from the building by civilians.

Devine immediately radioed the main office, calling for more ambulances. He then deployed his box alarm companies, some for rescue operations, some to begin fire suppression. When, ten minutes later, a large section of the roof collapsed, he ordered a 5-11 alarm, bypassing the usual 3-11 and 4-11 alarms, launching more than 40 additional fire companies to the scene.

 
Cosimo J. DiGiovanni Fireman, Squad 10
DiGiovanni was a member of Squad 10, one of the last companies summoned to the fire. His company was assigned to carry victims from the fire-ravaged classrooms to awaiting ambulances and squadrols for transport to hospitals or the morgue.

“After bringing the first little boy down, I started to go back to the second floor classroom, when I heard my name being call. It was my uncle George [Cannela] Sr. and his son George [Canella Jr.] calling me. They started to tell me they can't find little George. I explained to them that he could be in someone's home. Then my cousin told me his classroom was on the second floor. It was the same room I removed the first child from. The next time I saw my family was at the wake.

“I'm 86 years old now [2013], and this is the first time I have talked about this disaster. OLA was both family Cannella and Digiovanni parish. My late wife and I were married at OLA on February 7, 1948.”

 
John B. DiMaggio Ambulance 11
DiMaggio was with Ambulance 11 at the OLA fire. He later retired from Engine 86 in the late 1970s.
 
Walter E. Dietz Fireman, Engine 7
Some twenty years before the fire, Engine 7 moved to a new firehouse but was mistakenly not added to the Box Card for the new location. As a result, the company should have been on the list of companies scheduled for the 5-11 alarm, but wasn't. But as it turned out, the alarm office sent them anyway to replace another company that was unavailable. Upon arrival Fireman Dietz helped vent the roof. He then returned to ground level and climbed a ladder into a second floor classroom where he used a water line and extinguished the fire. He then assisted in the recovery of many of the bodies of the victims that were in the classroom.
 
Clarence Dixon Fireman, Engine 85
Dixon was a young fireman assigned to Engine Company 85. For the rest of his life, when someone would bring up the OLA fire, he would become choked up and turn away. His son, Dan, recalls the day of the fire: “I was 7 years old and went to 'Five Holy Martyrs' on the south side ... I remember my dad coming home, and for two days each time he looked at my baby sister or me, he would burst into tears and cry for a long period of time. All I can remember him saying was that they were the first company on the scene and that they put up ladders to rescue the kids. I never brought up the subject and he never talked about it.” Clarence passed away a few years ago.
 
Daniel Dizonno Fireman, Engine 117
Daniel was born March 17, 1916, and passed away on May 29, 2000.
 
Leo E. Dolan Lieutenant, Engine 67
No information available. If you have information about Leo E. Dolan, please contact webmaster.
 
Mike O Donnell Fireman, Engine 67
No information available. If you have information about Mike O Donnell, please contact webmaster.
 
Richard Duchene Driver, Truck 26
Duchene was a member of Truck Company 26. He later recalled: “Civilians went up the ladders to do what they could. Firemen were too busy trying to catch or break the falls of children leaping from the building. The children were screaming and jumping faster than we could catch them. It was the worst thing I ever saw ... children on the ground everywhere.” Duchene was one of the firefighters assigned to remove bodies after the fire. “The bodies seemed to be coming out in truckloads. I don't know which was worse; putting kids into ambulances knowing they would be dead before they went a block, or seeing the little forms trapped at the rear of the building.”
 
William F. Dunne, Jr. Lieutenant, Engine 77
No information available. If you have information about William F. Dunne, Jr., please contact webmaster.
 
Fred W. Eberhardt Fireman, Engine 68
No information available. If you have information about Fred W. Eberhardt, please contact webmaster.
 
Thomas Farley Fireman, Truck 46
No information available. If you have information about Thomas Farley, please contact webmaster.
 
Frank M. Ferguson Fireman, Squad 7
No information available. If you have information about Frank M. Ferguson, please contact webmaster.
 
Bernard Finley Lieutenant, Water Tower 1
No information available. If you have information about Bernard Finley, please contact webmaster.
 
Hubert Flowers Fireman, Engine 12
No information available. If you have information about Hubert Flowers, please contact webmaster.
 
Thomas Foley Fireman, Truck 26
No information available. If you have information about Thomas Foley, please contact webmaster.
 
Ron Foran Fireman, Engine 67
No information available. If you have information about Ron Foran, please contact webmaster.
 
George W. Franklin Fireman, Engine 12
No information available. If you have information about George W. Franklin, please contact webmaster.
 
William A. Fraser Fireman, Squad 2
Fraser was detailed from Engine 34 to drive Battalion 6
 
Eddie Gande Fireman, Engine 85
No information available. If you have information about Eddie Gande, please contact webmaster.
 
James Garth Engineer, Engine 44
No information available. If you have information about James Garth, please contact webmaster.
 
Herbert Gerstung Gas Truck
After his initial assignment to Engine 68, Herbert Gerstung was assigned as a driver for Ed Prendergast, CFD Chief of Equipment. He was then assigned to the CFD shops where, on the day of the fire, he worked the CFD gas truck refueling apparatus at the fire. He was later named to Mayor Richard J. Daley's CFD Honor Guard. During WWII, he joined the Marines and fought with the 3rd Marine Division on Iwo Jima. His brother, Robert Gerstung, was also a member of CFD and also fought the OLA fire.
 
Robert H. Gerstung Fireman, Engine 111
Robert Gerstung's company, Engine 111, was dispatched to the fire as part of the 5-11 alarm. A decade before the fire, Gerstung saw action in the European theater during WWII as a member of the U.S. Coast Guard. His brother, Herbert Gerstung, was also a firefighter who worked the OLA fire.
 
Eddie Gniady Fireman, Engine 67
Gniady was a rookie fireman on the day of the fire. He had the sad duty of carrying one of the deceased nuns out of the fire ravaged school. His daughter recalls: “I was just 5 years old at the time, but still remember how deeply affected he was by the experience. I’m told he hardly talked for a week.”

Gniady spent most of his career with Engine 67. In 1974, he received a commendation for rescuing an 80-year-old man from his blazing home after four civilians and the man's own son attempted and failed to rescue him. The commendation stated that Gniady's heroic rescue “was accomplished under extreme adverse conditions: high temperatures and humidity, intense heat and dense smoke”.

Eddie retired from the fire department in 1984. He passed away in 1998.

 
William Gorman CFD Chaplain
Msgr. Gorman helped convey information to reporters and parents waiting outside about what firefighters were finding as they were finally able to enter the burned out classrooms.
 
Bob Grabowski Lieutenant, Engine 114
No information available. If you have information about Bob Grabowski, please contact webmaster.
 
Emil Grocholl Fireman, Truck 32
Grocholl arrived at the fire early and came across many victims with burn injuries and injuries suffered when jumping or falling from a window.
 
Donald J. Guest Fireman, Squad 2
No information available. If you have information about Donald J. Guest, please contact webmaster.
 
George Harper Fireman, Truck 26
Harper was a member of Truck Company 26.
 
Richard J. Harrington Driver, Ambulance 8
Harrington and his partner Patrick Connors ended up transporting victims primarly to the morgue.
 
George F. Havlicek Lieutenant, Engine 24
No information available. If you have information about George F. Havlicek, please contact webmaster.
 
Norton J. Hayes Engineer, Engine 114
No information available. If you have information about Norton J. Hayes, please contact webmaster.
 
Daniel Healy Chief, Battalion 23
No information available. If you have information about Daniel Healy, please contact webmaster.
 
Joseph Hedderman Chief Fire Alarm Operator
After the first telephone call reporting the fire was received in the fire department alarm office and the first companies were dispatched, more calls reporting the fire flooded into the office. After the third such call, Chief Alarm Operator Hedderman realized they had a serious fire on their hands. On his own authority, he ordered transmission of a box alarm for box 5182, the fire alarm box nearest the school. This alarm triggered the companies assigned to box 5182, Engine Companies 44,68 and 95 along with Truck Companies 26 and 36, to rush to the scene, arriving just four minutes after the still alarm units arrived.
 
James R. Heffernan Fireman, Engine 26
No information available. If you have information about James R. Heffernan, please contact webmaster.
 
Robert Helgeson Driver, Insurance Patrol 7
Upon arrival at the fire, Helgeson immediately called for ambulances on his radio. He then donned his bunker gear helped rescue children.
 
Alvin Hermesdorf Fireman, Truck 46
Hermesdorf was off duty the day of the fire, but went to the school to lend his assistance anyway, knowing his company would be there. Alvin joined the fire department on May 11, 1948, assigned to Truck 10. He was soon transferred to Truck 36 and then Truck 46, his company at the time of the fire. Later he was assigned to Engine 86, from which he retired in 1977. He passed away in 1983 following a battle with cancer.
 
Bill Herron Fireman, Engine 12
No information available. If you have information about Bill Herron, please contact webmaster.
 
John J. Hester Chief, Battalion 28
No information available. If you have information about John J. Hester, please contact webmaster.
 
Thomas R. Hester Lieutenant, Truck 26
Hester was a lieutenant with Truck Company 26.
 
Adrian A. Hogue Lieutenant, Engine 7
Upon arrival Lieutenant Hogue was the officer in charge of Engine 7 and he supervised and assisted his men vent a roof. He then returned to ground level and climbed a ladder into a second floor classroom where he used a water line and extinguished the fire. He then assisted in the recovery of many of the bodies of the victims that were in the classroom.
 
Henry J. Holden Engineer, Engine 85
Holden was a member of Engine Company 85, the first Company to arrive at the fire. When his company arrived on scene and realized it was a school on fire and that children were still inside, Holden immediately called for a box alarm, which would send additional companies to the blaze. (He was unaware that the alarm office had already initiated the box alarm.) Holden worked with other members of his company attempting to rescue children from room 212.
 
Harry G. Hughes, Jr. Driver, Squad 2
Hughes was the driver for Squad 2, one of the companies responding to the 5-11 alarm, arriving at the scene around 3 p.m. Hughes helped carry victims out of the school once firemen were able to reach the second floor classrooms. He happened to be next to Richard Scheidt when Steve Lasker snapped the famous photo of Scheidt carrying John Jajkowski from the school. Hughes is visible on the far right (in the full width photo), with shield #2 on his helmet. Hughes passed away on December 22, 2012.
 
Frank J. Hull Fireman, Engine 44
No information available. If you have information about Frank J. Hull, please contact webmaster.
 
Joseph A. Hutchison Fireman, Engine 24
No information available. If you have information about Joseph A. Hutchison, please contact webmaster.
 
William J. Hutmacher Fireman, Squad 10
No information available. If you have information about William J. Hutmacher, please contact webmaster.
 
Salvatore L. Imburgia Driver, Truck 36
Imburgia was a member of Truck Company 36. He passed away in August 2011.
 
William Ives Fireman, Engine 67
From his daughter, Pat Nagel: “The OLA fire was one of the first fires [William] fought and certainly was one of the worst. His truck was dispatched and they were given a bad address and drove past the school looking at kids and nuns waving out the window thinking they were excited to see the big red truck. They quickly discovered that kids and nuns were trapped in an inferno. He remembers nuns dropping kids from windows and making the sign of the cross not knowing if they’d land okay. Barely able to speak, he told of carrying bodies out that day, crumbling in his hands and the struggles he and others made as they grabbed kids to take outside while hearing the cries of those that wouldn’t make it out alive. His most vivid memory that day was hearing a nun tell the children in her room that God sent the fireman to save them and started singing a Christian hymn to comfort them.” William passed away on June 24, 2013.
 
Robert Ivins Fireman, Light Wagon 1
No information available. If you have information about Robert Ivins, please contact webmaster.
 
Vic Jaccino Fireman, Engine 106
No information available. If you have information about Vic Jaccino, please contact webmaster.
 
Robert James Fireman, Engine 95
James, 29, was treated and released at Garfield Park Hospital for minor injuries suffered while fighting the OLA fire.
 
Carl Johnson Ambulance 3
No information available. If you have information about Carl Johnson, please contact webmaster.
 
Thomas Joyce Fireman, Ambulance 11
Joyce was detailed to Ambulance 11 and partnered with John Smullen on the day of the fire. They helped transport injured children to St. Anne's Hospital, and later, helped transfer bodies to the morgue.
 
Charles M. Kamin Lieutenant, Truck 35
When Kamin, in charge of Truck Company 35, arrived he saw the desperate situation in the courtyard between the north and south wings of the school. Children in rooms 209 and 211 were hanging out the windows, yelling and screaming, some jumping. Kamin climbed a ladder placed at the front window of room 211 and began rescuing children. He repeatedly reached in and grabbed students, mainly boys because he could grab them by their belt, lifted them out and dropped them on the ladder below him. The situation in the room deteriorated fast, though. After rescuing about 8 children, the air inside the room reached ignition temperature and the entire room erupted in flames, forcing Kamin back from the window. In horror, he watched as the remaining children disappeared in the conflagration. Kamin and his crew were credited with saving 63 of the 160 children and nuns saved from the burning school by the Chicago Fire Department.

Later that evening, Kamin was treated and released from Garfield Park Hospital for minor injuries. In a 1977 interview, he said, “Every once in a while it still bothers you. You can see those kids, and you hear them. I mean, screaming. I can hear the screams right now. And sometimes you're OK, but when you sit down sometimes.” (Tears welled in his eyes.) “It really bothers a fellow. It really does about all those kids.”

 
John Keiper Ambulance 14
The day of the fire, Keiper was assigned to Ambulance 14, housed with Engine 101 at 69th and Justine. On that day, as his daughter recalls, “My father transported 3 deceased nuns to the morgue.” The fire was particularly difficult for him because 3 of his 4 young daughters were in Catholic school at the time. “Since we lived in his ambulance district, he came home after the fire just to hug his 4 daughters, and never spoke of the fire again.”

Keiper served in the navy during WWll, and afterwards moved to Chicago after marrying. He joined the CFD on 9/16/1948.

After the fire, he moved to Chicago Ridge where, in 1987, at the age of 69, he received a letter of commendation from the village of Chicago Ridge for rescuing a woman from a burning building. In that incident, he discovered the burning building, made his way to the second floor and assisted the woman to safety.

John passed away in May 1992.

 
Patrick Kehoe Fireman, Squad 1
No information available. If you have information about Patrick Kehoe, please contact webmaster.
 
LeRoy Kelly Fireman, Engine 111
LeRoy Kelly became a Chicago Firefighter in 1955 at the age of 27, following college and the Korean War. He was assigned to E-111 where he would inevitably be working on December 1, 1958, when he responded on the 2-11 alarm at Our Lady of The Angels. Once on scene, he raised ladders and saved as many children as possible.

Four years later in 1962, while on E-22, he was awarded the Lambert Tree for rescuing a Mother and two children from a burning apartment building.

LeRoy retired in 1985 as Captain of T-36. He passed away August 22, 2010, at the age of 81. Until the day he died, LeRoy seldom shared his experiences at the Our Lady of The Angels fire with his wife, 6 children, and other loved ones, because of the vivid memories of the innocent casualties that had taken place.

 
William J. Kelly Chief, Battalion 24
No information available. If you have information about William J. Kelly, please contact webmaster.
 
John D. King Fireman, Engine 44
No information available. If you have information about John D. King, please contact webmaster.
 
Joseph King, Jr. Fireman, Squad 10
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Martin L. King Acting Lieutenant, Engine 26
No information available. If you have information about Martin L. King, please contact webmaster.
 
Earl Kirchner Patrolman, Insurance Patrol 7
Kirchner, along with other members of Patrol 7, arrived early on during the fire. Kirchner and his Lieutenant, Tom Prindiville, helped raise ladders in the courtyard and carry children down. Kirchner also helped rescue a nun, apparently either Sr. Helaine or Sr. Davidis.
 
Henry F. Koch Fireman, Light Wagon 2
No information available. If you have information about Henry F. Koch, please contact webmaster.
 
Marion “Sully” Kolomay Fireman, Engine 98
Kolomay returned home around 3 p.m. and was told by his wife that there was a terrible fire at the OLA school. Although he was off duty, he immediately rushed to the scene, where he found hundreds of distraught and frantic parents, and began trying to help comfort those parents. He dedicated the afternoon and evening to directing parents to hospitals, or back to their homes until more information became available. He wrote down several names of missing children and promised to let the parents know if he determined their whereabouts. The next day, he was heartbroken to learn that every one of the names he had written down were among the deceased listed in the newspaper.
 
Richard C. Krause Engineer, Engine 105
No information available. If you have information about Richard C. Krause, please contact webmaster.
 
Roger D. Kuntz Fireman, Engine 68
No information available. If you have information about Roger D. Kuntz, please contact webmaster.
 
Richard Larsen Fireman, Engine 68
No information available. If you have information about Richard Larsen, please contact webmaster.
 
Arthur H. Liebelt Captain, Engine 76
No information available. If you have information about Arthur H. Liebelt, please contact webmaster.
 
Louis Limper Fireman, Engine 43
Limper's company, Engine 43, positioned their pumper on the corner of Augusta and Hamlin and attached to the hydrant there. They then led out a hose line south through the alley to the school. While some members of his company began battling the fire in the northeast stairwell, Limper and the rest of his company entered the fire escape in the gangway, using a pry bar to open the door at the top of the fire escape. They helped the janitor, Mr. Raymond, and Father Hund evacuate students from room 207. They then started working their way into the north wing, eventually punching a hole through classroom walls in an attempt to get to the trapped children. Limper picked up a girl who was unconscious and carried her downstairs to an ambulance where she was revived and taken to the hospital.
 
Thomas J. Linnane Fireman, Squad 7
Linnane and Squad 7 responded to the 2-11 alarm.
 
Ralph D. Lockard Engineer, Engine 12
No information available. If you have information about Ralph D. Lockard, please contact webmaster.
 
Timothy Loftus Fireman, Squad 10
No information available. If you have information about Timothy Loftus, please contact webmaster.
 
John T. Lynch Driver, Squad 1
No information available. If you have information about John T. Lynch, please contact webmaster.
 
Tom Lyons Lieutenant, Squad 10
Tom and his fellow Squad 10 members were among the last companies summoned to the fire. They were assigned to help remove victims from the second floor for transport to hospitals or the morgue.
 
Edward O Malley Fireman, Engine 117
No information available. If you have information about Edward O Malley, please contact webmaster.
 
Joseph Marcoline Fireman, Engine 44
Marcoline was a driver for Battalion Chief 18, Miles Devine.
 
Willard (Jess) Martens Tiller, Truck 35
Martens was a member of Truck Company 35. He worked a life net with fireman Romanczak until the rate of falling bodies overwhelmed their net, at which point they discarded the net and simply tried to catch or break the fall of as many children as possible. Martens and Romanczak estimated that between 20 and 25 children leaped into their net before they were forced to abandon it.
 
John McBride Fireman, Truck 39
No information available. If you have information about John McBride, please contact webmaster.
 
Joseph McCarthy Ambulance Supervisor
McCarthy was a hero even before the OLA fire. In the 1930s he joined the Chicago Fire Department but, with World War II looming, soon enlisted in the Marines as a Gunnery Sergeant. Shortly after Pearl Harbor, his leadership skills were noticed and he was selected for an Officer's commission. In early 1944 he was deployed to Saipan with the 4th Marine Division, where he earned the Silver Star and Purple Heart for carrying two wounded Marines to safety under enemy fire. In 1945, on Iwo Jima, McCarthy and his company were pinned down by enemy machine gun and artillery fire. He quickly assembled an assault team and led them across 75 yards of open ground under relentless enemy fire. He then personally charged and destroyed an enemy gun emplacement, lead his team to destroy another, and eventually captured an entire ridge. For his heroic actions, he was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor and a second purple heart. After the war he was discharged with the rank of Lt. Colonel, and returned to the Chicago Fire Department, where he became Superintendant of Ambulances. He served with the fire department until his retirement in 1973. He passed away on June 15, 1996 at the age of 86.
 
Jack E. McCone Lieutenant, Squad 6
McCone was in command of Squad 6. Upon arriving on scene, several members of Squad 6 quickly unfolded a life net and rushed to catch children jumping from room 211. The moment the children spotted the net, they immediately started jumping. They were jumping so quickly the firemen didn't have time to clear their net before another one landed. Soon they were coming down multiple at a time, tmaking it impossible for the firemen to support the net with all the weight. They were forced to abandon the net and try to catch children in their arms. The children jumping from room 211, being eighth graders, were the largest in the school, leaving McCone with a double hernia when it was all over.
 
Robert W. McCullagh Engineer, Engine 7
Engineer McCullagh stayed with the engine to charge the lines and maintain adequate water pressure in the hose lines his crew was using to suppress the fire. Robert passed away in 1991.
 
Robert J. Meier Fireman, Truck 35
No information available. If you have information about Robert J. Meier, please contact webmaster.
 
Francis Meyer Driver, Truck 46
No information available. If you have information about Francis Meyer, please contact webmaster.
 
George F. Michalek Fireman, Engine 24
No information available. If you have information about George F. Michalek, please contact webmaster.
 
Louis “Bud” Miehle Fireman
"Bud wasn't one to show his emotions, but when he came home and told me about that fire, he just broke down and cried," his wife said. "He and the other firemen felt helpless, watching children scramble for their lives and jumping out of windows. He said he left a part of his heart there that day." Bud passed away on May 27, 2003.
 
Bruno W. Mierkiewicz Tiller, Truck 7
No information available. If you have information about Bruno W. Mierkiewicz, please contact webmaster.
 
Henry J. Milas Lieutenant, Truck 39
No information available. If you have information about Henry J. Milas, please contact webmaster.
 
Gerald J. Miller Fireman, Engine 95
Miller was a member of Engine Company 95, the first company, along with Truck Company 26, on the west side of the school.
 
James E. Minnick Engineer, Engine 77
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Harry Mohr First Deputy Fire Marshal
Mohr was a CFD Deputy Marshal, and one of the highest ranking officers to enter the second floor classrooms via the windows on the north side. Mohr passed away in 1993.
 
Thomas F. Moore Fireman, Engine 85
Moore was a member of Engine Company 85, the first Company to arrive at the fire. Using a two-and-a-half inch line, he attempted to knock down the fire at its source, in the northeast stairwell. The hope was that by removing the smoke, heat and flames boiling up into the second floor, it would improve conditions on the second floor and make an internal attack up the front stairway possible.
 
James F. Morgan Fireman, Engine 85
Morgan was off duty, but responded to the fire nonetheless, where he was detailed to Engine 24.
 
William C. Mueller Fireman, Squad 6
Mueller helped recover bodies from the burned out classrooms.
 
Driver Felix Murawski Fireman, Truck 7
No information available. If you have information about Driver Felix Murawski, please contact webmaster.
 
James Murphy Captain, Water Tower 2
No information available. If you have information about James Murphy, please contact webmaster.
 
Jewel Murphy Fireman, Truck 36
Jewel Murphy was a member of Truck 36, which responded to the Box Alarm and was the second or third unit on scene. When they arrived at the fire, their first action was to ladder the second floor windows on the alley side of the school. Jewel helped rescue children from rooms 208, 210 and 212. He passed away in 1967. Brother of Thomas Murphy.
 
John Murphy Fireman
Murphy passed away in January 2011.
 
Thomas J. Murphy Fireman, Truck 46
Thomas Murphy was a member of Truck 46 which responded to the 2-11 alarm. This fire profoundly saddened Thomas and left him with unshakable and horrible memories. He was later promoted to Lieutenant as a direct result of this tragedy. Later, he also served on Engine 67 (from same firehouse as Truck 46 at Fulton and Kilpatrick, now closed). Sadly, Thomas passed away in 1967 after developing severe pneumonia as a result of fighting a fire. Brother of Jewel Murphy.
 
Joseph V. Murray Fireman, Squad 6
Joe Murray not only fought the fire at Our Lady of the Angels, but lived in the parish and attended the very same school as a youngster. The fire was particularly difficult for him because he knew so many of the families at the school, and at least half the teachers. In fact, Sister St. Canice, who died in the fire, was Joe's third grade teacher in 1936.

Murray's company, Squad 6, was the second or third fire company on scene. They pulled up in front of the church on Iowa Street, which was the address Nora Maloney had given when she placed the first frantic call to the fire department. Just as they arrived, someone from Truck 36, parked just ahead of them on Iowa Street, yelled at Joe to help carry a ladder around to the alley on the north side because they had just discovered that was the true location of the fire. When they reached the alley, there were injured children lying on the ground and others jumping from the second floor windows. Joe rushed to catch children as they jumped, and immediately two children, a little girl and a larger boy, came hurtling down at him simultaneously. It was impossible to catch both, so he had to instantly decide which one to go for. Knowing instinctively that he could save the girl, less certain about the heavier boy, he caught the girl.

Soon fewer were jumping, and smoke was pouring more heavily from the second floor windows, so he climbed a ladder to one of room 210's windows, and began pulling children out. It was difficult to get them out, though, because they were so tightly packed at the windows. He then climbed inside the room and continued to shove children out onto the ladder. Fire had been pouring in through the transoms above the doors, and was now burning all across the ceiling, dropping lower and lower in the room. Suddenly, he could sense that the room was nearing flashover and headed back out the window. On his way out, he grabbed two children next to the window and tossed them out ahead of him. He felt badly about that, but it was their only chance to live. Just as he got out onto the ladder, the room flashed over, sending flames shooting out all the windows with a roar.

Realizing that no one in the room was still alive after the flashover, he climbed down the ladder and went around to the courtyard. There he spent some time on a ladder spraying water into room 211.

Next he entered the school through the Avers Avenue entrance, and climbed to the second floor, where he joined up with members of Squad 1, who were attempting to push the fire back into the main hallway in order to gain entry to the classrooms. When they finally breached the walls and gained access to the classrooms, their worst fears were realized: dozens of children had been unable to escape in time and had perished.

Joe remained in the fire service until his retirement in 1991 as a battalion chief. He passed away on March 24, 2016.

 
Frank “Moon” Muscare Fireman, Engine 42
Muscare, in addition to fighting the OLA fire, was quite a fighter for causes. He was elected president of CFFU Local 2 and helped organize an effective strike in 1980 that a led to a contract which required that every apparatus have a certain minimum number of firefighters assigned, leading to improved firefighter safety. The 1980 strike was the last one conducted by Illinois public safety employees.
 
Tony Muscarello Fireman, Engine 86
Muscarello was off duty at the time of the fire, but went to the fire anyway. Today, Muscarello is retired from the fire department and [as of 2004] is a videographer. He video taped the 45th Anniversary Mass on December 1, 2003, and the first Friends of OLA Dinner/Dance on January 10, 2004.
 
Robert A. Muth Fireman, Engine 77
No information available. If you have information about Robert A. Muth, please contact webmaster.
 
Stanley Myszokowski Fireman
No information available. If you have information about Stanley Myszokowski, please contact webmaster.
 
George Nape Ambulance 14
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James W. O Neill Fireman, Truck 7
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James B. Neville, Sr. Captain, Engine 43
Neville was in charge of Engine Company 43. He later became chief of the bomb squad. He passed away on July 29, 2001.
 
Edward Newell Division 6 Fire Marshal
Newell responded to the fire because OLA, located on the boundary between Division 2 and Division 6, was physically in his division, Division 6. However, the box alarm for the fire was box 5182, the fire alarm box located nearest OLA, at Chicago and Hamlin Avenues, was in Division 2. Therefore, both Division Marshal 2 and 6 responded to the fire, although the Division 2 Marshal was the one officially due.
 
Daniel A. Nockels Fireman, Engine 106
Nockels joined the Chicago Fire Department in 1956. He was killed in the line of duty battling a fire on February 1, 1985, when a roof that he and two fellow firefighters were on collapsed, killing all three.
 
John R. O'Brien Fireman, Engine 114
No information available. If you have information about John R. O'Brien, please contact webmaster.
 
Robert O'Brien Deputy Chief, Fire Prevention Bureau
O'Brien was First Deputy Chief in charge of the Fire Prevention Bureau of the Chicago Fire Department. He was killed in the line of duty in 1962 when he and another chief entered a burning building to ensure that all firefighters were safely out, and the roof suddenly collapsed before they could escape.
 
Thomas O'Donnell Fireman, Engine 24
O'Donnell was a member of Engine Company 24. Later, he moved to Squad 7, where he made Lieutenant and then to Engine 38 where he became a captain, Engine 117 where he became a Chief of Battalion 13.
 
Sy O'Neill Fireman, Truck 39
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Loren O'Rourke Patrolman, Insurance Patrol 7
O'Rourke was with Fire Insurance Patrol 7, which responded to the initial still alarm. O'Rourke helped hoist an extension ladder to a window in the courtyard, and then went around to the north side and helped raise ladders there. He also helped with a life net and moved injured children out of harms way. “We were one of the first ones there arriving with an engine. A truck company came right after us. It was a big mess there. The building had two sides and I ended up on the opposite side of the other crews who had gone to the front. I happened to see one girl standing in the yard; she was burnt from the knees to her ankles. I don’t know how she made it out from the second floor. I got a hold of her and brought her to the front of the building. Then we went back to the truck, grabbed a ladder and set it up in front of a window. We then manned a life net because kids were jumping out of the second floor.” Loren passed away on April 30, 2010 at age 84.
 
Daniel J. O'Shea Fireman, Truck 39
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Walter J. Olhava Fireman, Engine 105
Olhava responded to the fire with his company, Engine 105. They positioned their pumper at a hydrant about a block and a half east of the school and ran hose lines back to the fire. From Walter: “I turned on the hydrant and saw all the boys and girls and parents running around hysterically. I poured some water on the roof for a while and then was ordered to the third floor, the eighth grade, and helped separate bodies to be carried out. I shall never forget that fire, it was the worst one I was ever at in the twenty-five years I was on the Chicago Fire Dept.” Olhava moved to Arizona following his retirement from the CFD in 1979. He passed away on August 17, 1998.
 
John L. Osterkorn Fireman
Oskerkorn passed away on November 27, 1999.
 
Richard J. Van Overmeiren Fireman, Engine 26
No information available. If you have information about Richard J. Van Overmeiren, please contact webmaster.
 
Michael A. Palumbo Fireman, Engine 95
Palumbo was a member of Engine Company 95, one of the companies called on the box alarm at 2:44 p.m. He led out with a 1 1/2 inch line with two other firemen. They attempted to move up a stairway, but were blocked by hot water cascading down the stairs. They ascended another stairway, he could hear children screaming. Suddenly, the ceiling came crashing down on them. Palumbo, feeling that he had been burned, was transported to a hospital in an ambulance with a child whose hip hurt from being dragged down a stairway. Palumbo soon hitched a ride back to the scene with a policeman.
 
John Pauss Fireman, Squad 11 (Detailed to Ambulance 7)
Pauss, a member of Squad 11, was assigned to Ambulance Company 7 during the OLA fire. From his family: “John Pauss was a dedicated and proud fireman with the Chicago Fire Department for nearly thirty years. He began his career on January 16, 1954 at the age of 23. He served on the Fire Brigade/Fire Insurance Patrol, on Squad 11 at the Milwaukee & Lipps station, and as a captain on Flying Squad 5/Snorkel 5 at the Fullerton & Central Park station before becoming a battalion chief out of Operation Headquarters. He ended his career at Engine 57 at the Division & Western station. He passed away on February 19, 1983 having proudly and courageously served the Chicago Fire Department for 29 years.”
 
L.F. Peterson Fireman, Engine 106
No information available. If you have information about L.F. Peterson, please contact webmaster.
 
George J. Philbin Fireman, Engine 106
Philbin passed away on April 11, 2014.
 
Charles Pierce Supervisor
Pierce had a lead role in the fire department's investigation of the school fire. He passed away at age 81 on March 11, 2000.
 
Tony Pilas Superintendent, CFD Field Inspectors
Pilas was superintendent of field inspectors for the Chicago Fire Prevention Bureau. A native Chicagoan who attended public schools and graduated from the Illinois Institute of Technology, Pilas began working for the Fire Department in 1937. In 1944, he was promoted to lieutenant, the youngest of that rank in the department at the time. When he became a captain in 1958, he joined the Fire Prevention Bureau, the department's code enforcement arm. Pilas became a Battalion Chief 1967, and in 1970 he became a Division Marshal. He also was first deputy of the bureau. He retired at the mandatory age of 63 and became a department deputy director in a civilian capacity until 1980. Pilas also was a precinct captain in the 31st Ward regular Democratic organization, with which he was affiliated for 30 years. He died several years ago, leaving his son, Daniel, wife Anna, and two grandsons. Pilas' only daughter, Nancy, died at age 12 in the OLA fire. Father of Nancy Pilas, uncle of Carol Pilas.
 
Anthony Pils Division 2 Fire Marshal
Pils, the Division 2 Marshal, was officially due on any alarm for box 5182, the fire alarm box nearest OLA. He therefore responded when the box alarm was declared at 2:44 p.m. He was the highest ranking firefighter to enter the north-side second floor classrooms via the windows. Later in his career, as a Battalion Chief, he received the gold “Lambert Tree Medal,” the Chicago Fire Department's highest award for bravery.
 
John Piotrowski Fireman, Truck 39
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Sam Pipitone Fireman, Engine 114
Pipitone was off-duty.
 
Stephan Poliski Fireman
No information available. If you have information about Stephan Poliski, please contact webmaster.
 
John S. Ponce Fireman, Truck 26
No information available. If you have information about John S. Ponce, please contact webmaster.
 
Robert Porn Fireman, Truck 26
Porn was transported to Walther Memorial Hospital where he was treated and released after injuring his left eye while fighting the OLA fire.
 
John J. Power Fireman, Truck 46
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Thomas W. Power Driver, Squad 7
Power was a longtime firefighter on Chicago's West Side and a member of Squad 7 on the day of the OLA fire. The first thing he did after arriving on scene was to begin rescuing children. Later Power's squad, along with members of Truck 7, attempted to open holes in the roof of the north wing to help vent heat and smoke and thereby improve conditions inside on the second floor. Improved conditions might give firefighters a few minutes longer to effect rescues, and allow them to battle their way into the classrooms from the interior. By the time they finally breached the second floor classrooms, they realized it was too late - no survivors remained.

His longtime friend and deputy state fire marshal, Jack Ahern, said Power was “an excellent firefighter, always the first one there, the hardest worker and the easiest guy to get along with in the firehouse. He was a fireman's fireman. He'd get to a fire and he wouldn't get rattled or anything. He'd know exactly what to do and how to do it. Power was known to fellow firefighters as “Happy.”

According to his daughter, Eileen Bowery, it was the worst fire he ever fought because he was a young father himself at the time.

 
Thomas Prindiville Lieutenant, Insurance Patrol 7
Prindiville was a lieutenant with Insurance Patrol 7, which responded to the fire with the initial still alarm. Upon arrival, together with his crew (Loren O'Rourke and Earl Kirchner), he helped the firemen of Truck 26 raise a 36 foot ladder in the courtyard. He and Patrolman Kirchner then raised another ladder and spent the next several minutes climbing ladders, pulling children from windows and carrying them down. As more firefighters arrived, they also briefly helped man a life net but so many children began plummeting down that it quickly overwhelmed their ability to support the net.

Tom was so highly affected by the fire the he gave up firefighting. He passed away in the mid-2000s.

 
Robert J. Quayle Fireman, Truck 36
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Robert J. Quinn Chicago Fire Commissioner
Quinn helped direct operations at the fire, led an inspection of the school once the fire was out, and initiated an internal fire department investigation the next day.
 
William Quinn Captain, Truck 7
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John Reardon Lieutenant, Engine 44
Reardon and crew positioned their pumper at a hydrant at Hamlin and Iowa, and ran a line in front of the church, through the gangway between the school and rectory, and up the school's only external fire escape. He then led his crew up the fire escape and were pushing north into the north wing when a section of their hose broke and they were forced to retreat. Just then, the roof collapsed.
 
Anthony R. Reilly Fireman, Squad 6
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Raymond Reitz Driver, Ambulance 14
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John K. Rice Acting Lieutenant, Engine 95
Rice was with Engine Company 95, one of the three engine companies responding to the box alarm placed at 2:44 pm.
 
Roy Rickert Fireman, High Pressure 2
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George P. Riforgiato Fireman, Squad 1
No information available. If you have information about George P. Riforgiato, please contact webmaster.
 
Raymond C. Riordan Fireman, Engine 77
Riordan was a member of Engine 77 (Division 2, Battalion 28), who responded to the 5-11 alarm that was placed when the roof collapsed. Riordan served with the Chicago Fire Department for 34 years, retiring as a Lieutenant in 1984.
 
Charles G. Robinson Fireman, Engine 85
Robinson was a member of Engine Company 85, the first Company to arrive at the fire. He worked with Ralph Clark, Henry Holder and others in rescuing children from room 212. He passed away in 1972.
 
Raymond J. Robinson Fireman, Engine 12
No information available. If you have information about Raymond J. Robinson, please contact webmaster.
 
Tom Roche Tiller, Truck 36
Roche was the Tiller for Truck 36
 
Walter C. Romanczak Driver, Truck 35
Romanczak was a member of Truck Company 35. Together with Willard Martens he manned a life net in the alley on the north side of the school and attempted to catch jumping children. When the children saw the net, they began jumping many at a time, overwhelming the firemen, who soon had to abandon the life net and try to catch or break the fall of the youngsters cascading down upon them.
 
Thomas E. Ryan Lieutenant, Engine 114
No information available. If you have information about Thomas E. Ryan, please contact webmaster.
 
Alfred P. Sadofsky Fireman
Sadofsky was Chief Fire Marshal Ray Daley's driver.
 
Ralph Scavone Captain, Engine 105
No information available. If you have information about Ralph Scavone, please contact webmaster.
 
Raymond Schaffer Fireman, Squad 6
No information available. If you have information about Raymond Schaffer, please contact webmaster.
 
George C. Schechner Lieutenant, Squad 7
Schechner was in charge of Squad 7 and was one of the firemen attempting to cut holes in the roof in an effort to help vent heat and smoke, with the hope of making conditions more survivable in the classrooms below. In the years after the fire, George advanced to the rank of Battalion Chief, retiring in 1984. He passed away at age 92 on June 28, 2013.
 
Richard T. Scheidt Lieutenant, Squad 1
Scheidt was a member of Rescue Squad 1. He helped breach the walls of the second floor classrooms, where they discovered piles of small bodies. He helped remove the bodies that evening. As he emerged carrying the body of a young boy, a newspaper photographer named Steve Lasker snapped a photo. That heart-breaking photograph of Scheidt carrying 10-year-old John Jajkowski from the fire-ravaged school became the iconic image of the OLA tragedy, published in countless newspapers around the world. Scheidt removed nineteen deceased children from the school that day. John Jajkowski was the first.

Scheidt was forever haunted by the memory of the discovery of the dead children piled underneath the windows in the second floor classrooms. It was the single worst thing he experienced in his career as a firefighter.

Richard Scheidt passed away at age 81 on April 6, 2009.

 
Oliver Schlegel Lieutenant, Engine 106
No information available. If you have information about Oliver Schlegel, please contact webmaster.
 
John R. Seeman Fireman, Engine 42
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Joseph Shannon Fireman, Engine 67
Shannon was off-duty but responded to the fire nevertheless.
 
Arthur O. Shure Engineer, Engine 42
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Charles Smelser Driver, High Pressure 7
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John Smullen Fireman, Engine 27 (Detailed to Ambulance 11)
Smullen was with one of the first ambulance companies on scene, transporting victims to St. Anne's Hospital. Later during the recovery operation, they transferred bodies to the morgue where they ran out of metal gurneys and had to use wooden boxes.
 
Frank J. Snooks Fireman, Engine 44
No information available. If you have information about Frank J. Snooks, please contact webmaster.
 
William Somogyi Engineer, Engine 26
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Elmer Sonntag Fireman, Truck 39
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Walter Stasiek Fireman, Engine 7
Upon arrival Fireman Stasiek helped vent a roof. He then returned to ground level and climbed a ladder into a second floor classroom where he used a water line and extinguished the fire. He then assisted in the recovery of many of the bodies of the victims that were in the classroom.
 
Helmer (Whitey) Strandberg, Jr. Driver, Squad 10
No information available. If you have information about Helmer (Whitey) Strandberg, Jr., please contact webmaster.
 
Edward Strenski Fireman, Water Tower 2
No information available. If you have information about Edward Strenski, please contact webmaster.
 
Thomas B. Sullivan Captain, Truck 46
No information available. If you have information about Thomas B. Sullivan, please contact webmaster.
 
William W. Sweeney Candidate Fireman, Engine 44
Sweeney was a candidate firefighter at the time of the fire. He manned the nozzle of a hose running from a hydrant at Hamlin and Iowa, down the gangway between the school and rectory, and up the external fire escape. From there, his crew was attempting to press into the north wing, when a length of hose broke and they were forced to back out, just as part of the roof over the north wing collapsed.
 
Stanley Szok Captain, Engine 68
No information available. If you have information about Stanley Szok, please contact webmaster.
 
Jerry R. Taylor Fireman, Engine 43
No information available. If you have information about Jerry R. Taylor, please contact webmaster.
 
Robert Thorpe Fireman, Truck 26
Thorpe was a member of Truck Company 26.
 
John Tinaglia Fireman, Engine 26
No information available. If you have information about John Tinaglia, please contact webmaster.
 
Charles J. Travers Fireman, Engine 117
No information available. If you have information about Charles J. Travers, please contact webmaster.
 
William G. Treptow Fireman, Engine 42
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Act Eng Jack R. Ulrich Acting Engineer, Engine 67
No information available. If you have information about Act Eng Jack R. Ulrich, please contact webmaster.
 
Captain Frank W. Veneigh , Engine 111
No information available. If you have information about Captain Frank W. Veneigh, please contact webmaster.
 
Kenneth Walsh Fireman
No information available. If you have information about Kenneth Walsh, please contact webmaster.
 
Robert G Walsh Fireman, Squad 2
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Richard A. Welch, Sr. Driver, Tower 4
Welch drove the fire department's new experimental snorkel truck (Water Tower) to the OLA fire and, together with John Windle, positioned it in the alley on the north side of the school. While Windle operated the snorkel, Welch entered the school along with other firemen attempting to rescue children trapped in their north wing second floor classrooms. The fire in the center hallway was simply too intense, so they decided to chop through the wall into room 212 directly from the second floor landing of the front stairway. Firemen manning hoses were able to push back the fire enough to allow Welch and others on the axe team to chop through the wall into room 212. But by the time they gained entry to the room, it was too late, and none of the children were still alive. Likewise with room 210 and 208. Once firefighters started getting control of the fire, Welch and other firemen began the heartbreaking task of carrying little bodies from the smoldering classrooms. Welch's experience at the OLA fire was so traumatic, it was not until near the end of his life that he was able to discuss the fire, even with his family.
 
Henry Whedon Captain, Squad 1
Whedon was the Captain of Squad 1.
 
John White Fireman, Engine 76
White was hospitalized at Walther Memorial Hospital after suffering smoke inhalation while fighting the OLA fire.
 
John B. “Red” Windle Lieutenant, Tower 4
Windle, originally with Squad 3, operated the Chicago Fire Department's new experimental snorkel unit at the OLA fire. From the snorkel's basket, he directed a powerful stream of water into the second floor classrooms facing the alley north of the school. He had to work carefully to avoid blasting children directly with the powerful stream, which could blow them back from the windows into the fire. He spotted one little girl descending a ladder with her clothing on fire and directed the snorkel's powerful stream at her. It instantly extinguished her burning clothing, but also knocked her off the ladder. Windle later became Captain of his Snorkel company, and finally a batallian chief before retiring. John passed away in July 2013 at age 91.
 
Bertram Winzer Ambulance 10
No information available. If you have information about Bertram Winzer, please contact webmaster.
 
John J. Wittner Fireman, Engine 57
John was born July 13, 1923. From July 1944 to August 1946 he served in World War II, primarily in Luzon, and received the purple heart and meritorious unit award. Like many OLA firefighters, he was reticent to discuss the OLA fire afterwards, so his precise actions that day are not known. John passed away on November 10, 2007.
 
Chester Wleklinski Engineer, Engine 24
No information available. If you have information about Chester Wleklinski, please contact webmaster.
 
Stanley J. Wojnicki Lieutenant, Engine 85
Engineer Wojnicki was a member of Engine Company 85, the first Company to arrive at the fire. Upon seeing severity of the fire, and seeing children trapped on the second floor screaming for help, he radioed the alarm office asking for a box alarm, which would send more units to the scene. As it turned out, the alarm office had already sounded a box alarm.

Wojnicki didn't talk about the fire to anyone for over a year afterward. “I had nightmares. I'd wake up my wife screaming at night. I was going to quit after that fire. I get very emotional about it. 'Cause why couldn't we save those kids?” Wojnicki passed away on the 30th anniversary of the fire, December 1, 1988.

 
Mitchell J. Wozniak Fireman, Engine 77
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Firefighters Listed: 222
 
Police Officers
 
Paul Alberti Police Officer
Alberti was off duty at home when the fire started. From his back window he noticed a lot of black smoke in the direction of the school. He immediately ran to the school to see if he could help - as a grammar school football coach, he knew many of the students and teachers at the school. When he asked the nuns what he could do to help, they requested that he keep the public, and especially reporters, out of the convent. Reporters were attempting to enter the convent to interview the nuns who, understandably, did not wish to be interviewed while the tragedy next door was still unfolding. One reporter even attempted to go over Aberti's head by appealing to a police chief on scene to direct Alberti to allow him into the convent, but the chief sided with Alberti.
 
Leonard Baldy Helicopter Patrolman
Baldy, a Chicago Police Officer, operated Chicago's first traffic helicopter (starting in February 1958), broadcasting traffic reports on WGN radio. During the OLA fire, he not only reported on the fire from high overhead, he also communicated with emergency vehicles weaving through heavy traffic, helping them find the quickest route to the fire.
 
John J. Byrne Police Officer
Byrne helped grieving families with the heart-wrenching task of identifying the bodies of their children at the morgue. He said that in his entire 39-year career as a Chicago Police Officer, working with the families of the OLA victims was his most difficult assignment. John passed away on June 26, 2000.
 
Richard G. Cervenka, Sr. Police Officer
Cervenka, badge 2046, was assigned to the Fillmore District, located then at Fillmore & Pulaski. On the day of the fire, he was assigned to a squadrol that was sent to the fire to serve as a makeshift ambulance since there was a shortage of actual ambulances available. He helped transport many of the deceased fire victims to the county morgue. He was deeply affected by his experience, especially since he had two young children of his own. Richard was born November 11, 1925, joined the Chicago Police Department in 1955, retired in 1979, and passed away on August 20, 2002.
 
James Cleary Police Arson Investigator
Cleary was one of four arson investigators present at the fire. He was the first to question Joseph Brocato and Ronald Edington, the last two students to carry wastepaper from their classroom to the basement before the fire was discovered.
 
Jerry Collins Police Arson Investigator
Collins arrived at the height of the fire, along with three other arson investigators, and immediately began investigating possible causes for the fire.
 
Patrick T. Culhane Police Investigator
Culhane was a police investigator who arrived on scene within two hours and went through the building even before the bodies had been removed. He was deeply affected by what he saw. Patrick passed away in 2005
 
James Cusack Police Officer
James Cusack had been with the Chicago Police Department a little over two years and was assigned to the Austin District when the fire struck. James was born February 5, 1931, and joined the Chicago Police Department in 1956, after serving four years in the Navy beginning in January 1951. He was married in May 1957 and the first of his seven children (six boys and one girl) was born just months before the fire. During his career with the CPD, he also served as a Detective, Sargent and Lieutenant, finally retiring in the mid 1990s. He passed away in March 1998 following a battle with cancer. According to his cousin, Rev. John T. McGeean, “Jim was a policeman through and through.”
 
Thomas Daly Police Officer
Thomas Daly was head of the Missing Persons Bureau of the Chicago Police Department at the time of the fire. He took the fingerprints of some of the victims and managed police identification efforts for those whose identity was uncertain. Daly served on the CPD from 1935 through 1968, with time out to serve in the U.S. Navy during World War II. As head of the Missing Persons Bureau, Lt. Daly would often receive cards and letters from parents thanking him for helping them locate their children. After leaving the police force, he began a new career in finance and later as a credit analyst. Thomas passed away on May 8, 1996.
 
Ralph DeBartolo Police Officer
DeBartolo was driving home after work when he came across the fire at Our Lady of the Angels and stopped to help. He followed behind the firemen battling their way to the second floor classrooms, only to discover the bodies of dozens of children who were unable to escape the inferno. He helped carry bodies from the school to awaiting vehicles. As of 2013, at age 79, he is still on the job, now with the Cook County sheriff's department, working as Chief of the Rolling Meadows courthouse.
 
Charles William Glanz Police Officer
Glanz (b. October 11, 1931) was a native of Chicago. He became a policeman for the Chicago Park District and later became a plainclothes detective for the Chicago Police Force. During his time as a Park District police officer, he was one of the first people on the scene at the OLA fire where he helped a number of children escape. He decided to change careers not long after the OLA fire and eventually retired in 1995. He passed away on May 10, 2000.
 
Frank Grady Police Arson Investigator
Grady was one of four arson investigators present at the fire who began investigating possible causes for the fire even before it was extinguished.
 
Donald Herion Police Officer
Herion was sent to the fire immediately upon reporting for duty on the afternoon of December 1, 1958, along with his partner, Bob Peters. Their orders were simply to help in any way they could. The scene was chaotic when they arrived: the fire was not yet fully extinguished; the streets around the school were jammed with emergency vehicles, first responders, spectators, neighbors and terrified parents; and ambulances and squadrols snaked through the crowds transporting victims away. Don and his partner were quickly assigned to assist Father Joseph Ognibene, who had been told to report to Msgr. Pellicore at the Cook County Morgue to help with identification of victims. Don and his partner, Bob, drove Father Joe to the morgue and remained with him throughout the night as the torturous and heartbreaking process of identification progressed.

In 2010, he published a book entitled “The Chicago Way,” in which he related many of his experiences as a policeman, including the OLA fire. He has also provided technical advice for, and appeared in, several motion pictures filmed in the Chicago area, including the blockbuster hits “Backdraft” and “U.S. Marshals”.

 
Matthew Landers Police Officer
Landers was one of the first policemen, if not the very first, to reach the scene, arriving just before the first fire department units. The moment he reached the school, he was shocked to discover 20 or more children lying injured or unconscious after jumping from their second floor classroom windows. He loaded three injured children into the back seat of his patrol car and, along with a civilian in the front seat holding a severly injured little girl, rushed them to the hospital. He then returned and helped load other injured children into awaiting ambulances so they too could be transported to nearby hospitals.
 
Patrick McPolin Police Chaplain
McPolin was a chaplain with the Chicago Police Department at the time of the fire. He recalls that residue at the fire scene left his hands oily and stained the paper on which he kept notes. In the aftermath, he helped families with the horrific job of trying to identify the remains of their children. Father McPolin passed away on August 15, 2012.
 
(first name unknown) McTigue Police Officer
McTigue reportedly gave Alfred Andreoli, father of three children in the school, a ride from near his clothing store on Chicago avenue to the school.
 
Harry Penzin Police Captain
Penzin arrived shortly before 3 PM. He immediately called for all available police squadrols and ambulances in the city. He remained on site until all victims had been removed from the building. The next day, he directed the police arson squad to investigate the fire, and assigned officers to question various witnesses.
 
Robert Peters Police Officer
Peters and his partner, Don Herion, were sent to the fire and directed to assist Father Joseph Ognibene, who was sent to help identify bodies at the morgue. Bob and Don transported Father Joe to the morgue and remained there with him throughout the night helping with the terrible task of identification. Bob passed away in March 1994.
 
Robert Pidtro Police Officer
Pidtro was in squadrol #263 on tour near the school, when he noticed smoke several blocks away and heard fire engine sirens. He radioed headquarters and headed toward the smoke. When he arrived, he saw kids on ladders and others jumping. He helped load injured children into other squadrols and private vehicles before driving a group of injured children to the hospital in his own vehicle.
 
Rudy Plovanich Police Officer
Plovanich was off-duty when he heard about the fire, and rushed to the school to find his three children, Daniel, Matt and Michael. His police instincts took over, and he ended up helping children escape from the south wing.
 
Daniel Pucionello Police Officer
Pucionello was admitted to St. Anne's Hospital with unknown injuries.
 
Joe Sansone Police Officer
Sansone assisted at the fire scene and later helped deal with grieving parents at the morgue.
 
William Sexton Police Officer
Sexton was treated for his injuries at St. Anne's Hospital.
 
Daniel J. Usalis Police Officer
Usalis was one of the first responders at the OLA fire. He was born in Chicago in 1922, attended St. Mel's High School and later St. Ambrose College in Iowa on a football scholarship. He enlisted in the Marine Corps at the start of WWII and fought at Guadalcanal, Guam and Okinawa. His unit received the Presidential Unit Citation for extraordinary heroism, and he was was awarded three Purple Hearts. After the war, he returned to Chicago, got married, and joined the Chicago Police Department. Like many who responded to the fire, he had children of his own who were the same age as the victims of the fire. Dan passed away in November 2012.
 
Police Officers Listed: 24
 
Medical Personnel
 
Sister Judian Breitenbach Nursing Supervisor, St. Anne's Hospital
Sr. Judian served as the Director of Press Relations at St. Anne’s Hospital. She was on the Disaster Committee of Our Lady of the Angels school fire. Between 1958 and 1962, Sr. Judian held roles as the Supervisor of Orthopedics, Urology and Emergency. For many years she ministered at various healthcare facilities and served the Poor Handmaid Community. In later years, she studied alternative medicine and in 2002 she opened Namaste Center in LaPorte, Indiana.

Sister Judian served as a Poor Handmaid of Jesus Christ for 60 years before her passing on March 7, 2013.

 
Sister Stephen Brueggeman Nursing Supervisor, St. Anne's Hospital
At the time of the fire Sr. Stephen was the director of the St. Anne’s School of Nursing. In 1967, she became Administrator of St. Anne’s Hospital. By 1969, she became Hospital Administrator of St. Catherine Hospital in East Chicago, Indiana and later served as Provincial of the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ. St. Stephen had served 58 years formally in healthcare before retiring.
 
James Callahan Physician
Dr. Callahan was Chief of Staff of physicians at St. Anne's Hospital at the time of the OLA fire. He and Dr. Segraves directed implementation of the disaster plan when the hospital was suddenly flooded with child victims from the OLA fire. At around 9:00 p.m. on the evening of the fire, Drs. Callahan and Segraves held an emergency staff meeting to coordinate how the hospital would treat the huge number of burned and injured victims now requiring extensive treatment and care. One of the first rules they agreed upon was that the care provided by the physicians would be done pro-bono.

Callahan was a Major General in the Army Medical Corps with connections in many hospitals and university trauma centers across the country. As a result, in addition to personally treating victims, he helped secure the advice and assistance of many physicians from across the city, state and nation.

 
Louis Dvonch Physician
Dr. Louis Dvonch, like many of the physicians who treated victims from OLA, worked four days virtually non-stop caring for OLA fire victims. Like other physicians caring for fire victims at St. Anne's, he had to completely abandon his private practice for days in order to focus on the fire victims. He wrote of his experience caring for victims of the OLA fire here. Dr. Dvonch passed away July 1, 2013.
 
William Dvonch Physician
Dr. William Dvonch was Billy Edington's physician for the eight months before Billy died in August 1959. Dr. Dvonch performed more than 25 skin graft operations on Billy during that time.
 
Carol Flemming Student Nurse, St. Anne's Hospital
Flemming was one of the student nurses at St. Anne's Hospital assigned to help care for injured students.
 
Joseph Forbrich Pediatrician
No information available. If you have information about Joseph Forbrich, please contact webmaster.
 
Paul F. Fox Physician
Dr. Fox practiced general and pediatric medicine for more than 45 years in Chicago. He was the Chief of Surgery at St. Anne's hospital on the day of the OLA fire, and together with other doctors on staff, treated a seemingly unending stream of victims that arrived at St. Anne's. He became Michele McBride's surgeon after treating her sever burns.

Dr. Fox passed away at age 86 on February 22, 1997.

 
Joseph Forbrich Pediatrician
Dr. Forbrich was a team captain, along with Dr. Thomas Moore, who directed the other physicians on staff in their care of the OLA victims.
 
Elizabeth Ann Garvey Nurse
Nurse Garvey had recently taken her State Medical Board Examination and in fact received her RN on the day of the fire. She helped care for the first child to show up at St. Anne's Hospital, and many more in the days that followed. Elizabeth grew up on the west side of Chicago, 4400 block of Congress Street, after her parents immigrated from Ireland. She attended St. Mel Grammar School, Providence High School, St. Anne's School of Nursing and received a Bachelor Degree from St. Francis University. She and her husband of 56 years [as of 2016], Chris, have five children and ten grandchildren. Her experience with the OLA fire can be found here, in her own words.
 
James Hartney Pathologist
Dr. Hartney's lab performed 300 blood analyses in three days, greatly exceeding the normal workload of 10 analyses in three days. Said Dr. Hartney: “A single burned child like Michele [McBride] is a topic of hospital conversation for weeks. Five such cases can bring normal hospital procedures to a halt. No other injury or illness requires so much grinding time, so much skilled nursing, so many laboratory tests. If diligence slackens for a minute, they may just slip away.”
 
John P. Igini Physician
Dr. Igini, former chief of surgery at St. Anne's Hospital, was serving on staff the day the OLA fire struck and dozens of victims were brought to St. Anne's. “I shall never forget the fire at Our Lady of the Angels School,” Igini said later. He practiced both general and thoracic surgery, serving at 10 hospitals over his career. He was also a clinical instructor of surgery at Loyola Hospital, and finally retired from medical practice in 1993. John Igini passed away on July 20, 1994.
 
Sister Mary Almunda Klaus Nurse
Sister Almunda was the hospital administrator at St. Anne's Hospital. She scrambled to contact all physicians on staff, letting them know they had a disaster of major proportions on their hands, and to request that they report to the hospital stat.
 
Jackie Lanse Nurse
Nurse Lanse helped care for the children who arrived at St. Anne's Hospital.
 
Thomas Moore Internist
Dr. Moore was one of the team captains who was responsible for assigning doctors in groups of three to intense three-hour shifts making round and dealing with each child in turn. Dr. Moore, like most of the doctors treating OLA victims, worked steadily from 3 PM Monday until 5 AM Wednesday. Also like the other doctors involved, when they received insurance company payments for treating OLA children, they either turned the checks over to funds established for the burned children, or to their hospital. Moore explained, “We felt that we wanted no profit from the children.”
 
Barbara Moncada Nurse
Nurse Moncada was a nurse at St. Anne's hospital on the day of the fire. She had two cousins, JoAnn and John Pellettiere, who attended the school and escaped without injury. But a member of the school staff mistakenly identified a deceased girl as JoAnn. When Moncada saw her cousin's name on the list of known fatalities, she rushed in a panic to the hospital morgue where she located the body, and seeing that it was not her cousin, corrected the mistake.
 
Clarence Monroe Plastic Surgeon
St. Anne's Hospital had no plastic surgeons on staff, so it called in a consultant, Dr. Monroe. He performed
 
Patricia Mullin Medical Technician
Technician Mullin was one of several technicians who helped collect blood from donors for the injured children.
 
Irene Burke Pedersen Nurse
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Marjory Quane Nurse
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Michael Rainiero Nurse
Rainiero's daughter, Nina, was a student in Room 201.
 
Patricia Rice Senior Nursing Student
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Anna Marie Richerson Nurse
Nurse Richerson was a 31-year-old Registered Nurse working at St. Anne's hospital on December 1, 1958. She helped provide emergency treatment and care for many of the injured children brought to the hospital in the wake of the fire. She never forgot that day and the children whose lives were cut short. Anna Marie passed away in January 27, 2007.
 
Grace Riley Nurse
Riley worked in the emergency room of St. Anne's Hospital when dozens of children from the OLA fire showed up needing care. The first ambulance arrived carrying seven children - one little girl and a group of seventh and eighth grade boys. With other staff members caring for the boys, Riley took care of the girl. “I was cutting her clothes off and I heard her say, 'Oh nurse, my face hurts so bad.' And I looked up and her face was totally burned.” More and more children began to arrive, and the smell of burnt flesh became overwhelming - something that Riley cannot forget. She helped remove the dead from gurneys to free them up for the living. “Ambulance by ambulance by ambulance, they just kept coming. It was just earth-shattering to look into a room and see all those little bodies, and to see the parents screaming, 'Where is my child? Where is my child?'” Shortly after the fire, Riley left emergency room nursing - she simply couldn't do it any more.
 
Henriette Rocks Nurse
Nurse Rocks was known as Sister Katherine.
 
James Segraves Orthopedic Surgeon
Dr. Segraves developed the disaster plan for St. Anne's Hospital that was put into effect on the day of the OLA fire when overwhelming numbers of victim descended on the hospital needing treatment. For the first time, triage was used in civilian hospitals; prior to this it had only been used in war. It was also the first time burn victims were treated using Stryker Frames instead of covering their wounds with bandages, a decision that helped the children recover more quickly. The disaster plan used at St. Anne's that day became the basis for trauma centers in use today.

Arriving children were first triaged by Dr. Segraves then, depending on the nature and seriousness of their injuries, moved either to an operating room, X-ray, or the hospital auditorium. In the auditorium doctors administered sedatives, tetanus shots, antibiotics, and started saline drips until their turn came for personal treatment.

Later, Dr. Segraves reflected on those early hours: “It was deathly quiet. The children whimpered, but they didn't cry. They were abnormally polite, pitifully grateful. I remember one badly burned girl of nine. She kept worrying about her little brother who was a first-grader at the school. She wouldn't let anyone give her a sedative until she learned that he was safe at home. Then she said, 'Please give me something to make it stop hurting.'”

Dr. Segraves died in Ireland while on a family vacation in August 1967. He was 56 years old.

 
Sister Stephen Director, St. Anne's Nursing School
No information available. If you have information about Sister Stephen, please contact webmaster.
 
Dorothy R.N. Taylor Nurse
When Nurse Taylor heard of the OLA tragedy, she volunteered her nursing services at St. Anne's Hospital. She was assigned to care for fourteen-year-old burn victim Valerie Thoma, which she did, right up until Valerie died of her injuries on March 10, 1959.
 
M.H. Turek Physician
Once firemen breached the second floor classrooms, Dr. Turek helped search for living victims for first evacuation.
 
Stanley M. Zydlo, Jr. Medical Student
Zydlo was a Loyola University medical student working at St. Anne's Hospital in 1958. On the day of the fire, he was waiting at a bus stop in his white lab coat when a policeman saw him and asked him to accompany him to the scene of a disaster. The policeman took him to the OLA fire, where he helped determine which victims were deceased and which should be transported to a hospital. In 1972, he started a new Emergency Medical System through Northwest Community Hospital, placing advanced life support equipment and medically trained personnel in ambulances and fire trucks. Zydlo passed away on June 3, 2015 at age 81.
 
Medical Personnel Listed: 30
 
School Staff and Clergy
 
Mario Camerini OLA Assistant Janitor
Twenty year old Mario Camerini had just exited the church's rear basement door and walked into the alley on the north side of the school when he realized the school was on fire. He ran to the garage behind the rectory and located the only parish extension ladder long enough to reach the second floor windows. Parent Max Stachura, running up the alley toward the school, saw Camerini struggling with the heavy ladder and helped him place it at one of room 208's windows. This allowed students in that classroom to begin evacuating before the fire department arrived - all other ladders brought to the school by civilians were too short to reach the second floor. The death toll in room 208 would likely have been higher if not for Camerini's quick thinking.
 
Sister Andrienne Carolan BVM Teacher in Room 201
Sister Andrienne Carolan's quick reaction to the invasion of smoke in the south wing hallway allowed all of her students to escape the school unharmed.

“The first thing we knew was when the fire bell rang.” she said. “It was a nice, wintry day and I figured soneone thought they'd catch us napping - that it was just a fire drill.

The smoke was so thick in the halls and eventually the classrooms, that about 15 students could not see to escape. Sister Andrienne ran back through the suffocating smoke, located her remaining students and led them through the blinding, toxic smoke to safety and clean air outside.

“I led the children out in regular formation. Within minutes the smoke became so heavy I couldn't see.

She received unwanted media attention by rolling some children down a stairway like logs.

“I told the children to crawl on the floor, and roll down the stairway. I forced them. Pushed them. I told them to lie down. It was awful. Then I began to carry some. The other sisters did, too. I don't want to be a hero. There were so many sisters trying to help.”

 
Sister Mary Clare Therese Champagne BVM Teacher in Room 212 (fatality)
When heavy smoke, heat and flames finally invaded her classroom, Sister Therese realized that rescuers would not arrive in time, so she encouraged her students to climb out onto the window ledges and jump. She even shoved some out, giving them their best chance to survive - they could be injured or even killed in the fall, but their chances were better than remaining in the burning classroom. She could have tried to climb out and save herself, but she did not. She remained with her children to the bitter end. She was one of three nuns who did not survive - she and 28 of her pupils died from asphixiation, not from heat and flames.
 
Dorothy Coughlan Lay Teacher in Room 205
After conferring with lay teacher Pearl Tristano in room 206, Coughlan and Tristano successfully led their students out of the school to safety. Initially, they waited briefly while trying to locate the school principal, who was substituting for an absent teacher, before taking the initiative and leading their students to safety outside the building. Their willingness to act contrary to the strict school rules (removing students from the building without the principal's approval) saved many lives.
 
Joseph Cussen OLA Pastor
Father Cussen helped children in the south wing to escape and then attempted to get into the north wing from the second floor annex. The heat and smoke were too intense, so he went outside to the alley north of the school, where children were jumping and attempting to climb down ladders. Father Cussen assisted and encouraged them and helped move injured children away from the school to be transported to hospitals.
 
Sister Mary Davidis Devine BVM Teacher in Room 209
Sister Davidis Devine's quick thinking probably helped account for the low death rate in room 209. She ordered the children to block cracks around the doors with books and furniture, slowing the suffocating smoke's entry into the room. Parent Sam Tortorice and Father Ognibene helped evacuate children through the rear classroom window and into the school annex. Other children jumped and others were helped down ladders by firemen. Sister Dividis remained in the room, helping children get out the windows. Once all her students were out, she finally allowed a fireman to help her out onto a ladder. But one girl Beverly Burda, 13, had been overcome by smoke, and was passed out on the floor, hidden in the heavy smoke. Only after Sister Davidis was out on the ladder did she get a glimpse of Beverly lying on the floor. By then it was too late, and the room flashed over a few second later. Sister Davidis was hospitalized with severe burns but survived.
 
Sister Mary Geraldita Ennis BVM Teacher in Room 207
Sister Geraldita inadvertently left her keys in the convent on the afternoon of the fire. When smoke began invading her classroom and she discovered that the hallway outside the room's main door was impassable, she rushed to open the rear door. But that seldom used door was locked and, of course, she didn't have the key. She instructed the children to pray, and attempted to attract attention by throwing a flower pot out a window, hitting the rectory next door. Before long, the school janitor, James Raymond, showed up outside the locked door, along with Rev. Charles Hund, and unlocked the door. The children were all lying on the floor trying to breathe but beginning to lose consciousness. The three adults started grabbing children, standing the up and shoving them out and down the fire escape. Sister Geraldita remained in the increasingly hot, dark and toxic room until every child was safely out. Seconds later, the entire room exploded in flames. Thanks to the heroic efforts of Sister Geraldita, Rev. Hund and Mr. Raymond, Room 207 was the only second floor classroom in the north wing without a single fatality.
 
Rev. Charles Hund OLA Associate Pastor
Father Hund was napping in the rectory when he heard screams coming from the school next door. When he looked out his window, which faced the back side of the school, he saw children in room 207 hanging out the windows, screaming for help. Smoke was rolling out the windows above their heads. Hund ran downstairs, out of the rectory and into the school. With great difficulty due to the smoke and heat, he finally reached the rear door of room 207. Mr. Raymond, the janitor, showed up at the same time. He was bleeding from a deep gash in his wrist that he received while breaking a window minutes before. Raymond managed to unlock the door, and together they began yanking the semiconscious children to their feet, shoving them out of the room to the school's only external fire escape.
 
Sister Mary Seraphica Kelley BVM Teacher in Room 210 (fatality)
Sister Seraphica, like the other nuns who perished in the fire, refused to abandon her students and save herself. The children in her fourth grade classroom were the youngest and smallest in any of the five classrooms that suffered fatalities. The window sills throughout the school were three feet off the floor, and a foot wide. Many of Sister Seraphica's little fourth graders found it difficult or impossible to climb out of these windows, especially with more than 50 other panicked children desperately clamoring for air at the four windows.

Sister Seraphica was found by firemen beneath a pile of children near a window.

 
Sister Mary St. Canice Lyng BVM Teacher in Room 208 (fatality)
When fire invaded her classroom, Sister St. Canice ordered her children to the windows and helped some of them scale the high sills and jump out. There were simply too many children and not enough time to get them all out before the room was completely engulfed in flames. Like the other nuns who perished, she refused to abandon her children but remained with them to the very end. She was found by firemen on top of a pile of children in an apparent attempt to protect them.
 
Nora Maloney OLA Rectory Housekeeper
Maloney placed the first telephone call to the fire department, after janitor James Raymond rushed into the rectory and yelled to her that the school was on fire. According to her testimony before the inquest investigating the fire, she estimated that Mr. Raymond notified her of the fire at between 2:30 and 2:40 PM. Not knowing the telephone number for the fire department, she dialed '0' to reach the telephone operator and said there was a fire and to connect her to the fire department, which was done. The fire department alarm operator dispatched the first units mere seconds later. For a fire where literally every second counted, the promptness of that first call was vital.
 
Sister Mary Helaine O'Neill BVM Teacher in Room 211
Sister Helaine was severely burned but survived. She was the only teacher to survive a classroom in which many students perished. Several children reported that she had helped and encouraged them to escape by climbing through a window. Some who did jumped or fell and were injured - some even killed. But many others were either caught by firemen or other bystanders, or helped down by firemen on ladders.

Sister Helaine was critically burned before being brought down a ladder by firemen.

 
Rev. Joseph Ognibene OLA Associate Pastor
Father Ognibene was a 32-year-old native Chicagoan who came to Our Lady of the Angels in 1952, and was well liked by the children of the school, who called him Father Joe. OLA was his first assignment after ordination. “I was hurrying to the school in my car,” he recalled later. “I saw smoke coming from the upper windows and drove my car the wrong way up a one-way street. I parked the car and ran into the building. Some children were leaving the building in an orderly fire-drill manner. Others were running about, screaming. Then everything was ablaze.”

Father Joe attempted to get into the north wing through the annex, but was blocked by intense fire, heat and smoke. He then noticed parent Sam Tortorice struggling to rescue children from the rear window of room 209. Father Joe sat astride a window ledge in the annex and, as Mr. Tortorice pulled children from the rear window of room 209, he pulled them into the annex. From there they fled down an internal steel staircase and out an exit to Iowa Street.

 
Msgr. Edward Pellicore Former OLA Pastor
Father Pellicore was at the morgue on the night of the fire, and later helped families make funeral arrangements.
 
James Raymond OLA Janitor
Raymond, the parish janitor for 13 years, was returning to the school from another parish property when he noticed smoke at the rear of the school. When he ran to investigate he saw an ominous red glow coming from a basement-level frosted window. He rushed into the basement and through the boiler room to discover that a fire was blazing in the northeast stairwell. He ran to the rectory next door and alerted housekeeper Nora Maloney to call the fire department because the school was on fire.

He then ran back into the school and made his way to the second floor where he discovered that the children and nun in room 207 were trapped behind a locked classroom door. He unlocked the door, and together with priest Charles Hund, quickly pulled the half unconscious children and teacher from the increasingly hot and toxic classroom to the school's lone fire escape. Just seconds after the last child exited the room, it flashed over. All 40 would have perished but for the heroic efforts of Raymond and Hund.

 
Joan Rossi Lay Teacher in Room 203
Rossi led her class out of the school to safety through hallways filled with thick, blinding smoke. Once outdoors, she realized several students were unaccounted for. She ran back into the school through the suffocating smoke and found the missing children still huddling in the classroom, too frightened to enter the smoke-filled hallway. So she helped each of them climb out through a window onto a fire department ladder, where firemen helped them reach the ground safely. Rossi then followed them down the ladder as well.
 
Rev. Anthony Spina Former OLA Asst. Pastor
Father Spina assisted at the morgue on the night of the fire, and helped families make funeral arrangements.
 
Pearl Tristano Lay Teacher in Room 206
Tristano was a twenty-four-year-old fifth-grade lay teacher who was teaching in room 206 on the day of the fire. She and lay teacher Dorothy Coughlan in room 205 herded their students quickly out of the school and into the church next door. As they left the building, Miss Tristano tripped the fire alarm. There is some question as to whether or not the alarm actually sounded at that time - some reports hold that it did not and that she returned minutes later and tripped it a second time. In either case, she is the person who activated the fire alarm, which began to ring throughout the school at 2:42 pm. She was not injured.
 
School Staff and Clergy Listed: 18
 
Civilians
 
Elmer Barkhaus Salesman
Mr. Barkhaus was a passing motorist, a salesman, who noticed smoke coming from the school. He ran into Barbara Glowacki's store north of the school and asked Glowacki if she had a phone. She said she did not have a public phone (she did not know he intended to call the fire department). Barkhaus then ran to an apartment across the street looking for a phone. In the meantime, Glowacki ran out into the alley and saw that the school was on fire. She rushed back into her store and called the fire department, although by then the fire department had already been notified. Barkhaus passed away in April, 1971.
 
Fr. Patrick Barnes Priest
Fr. Barnes was a diocesan priest with a great interest in firefighting. He was riding with Squad 10 on the day of the fire.
 
Joseph Casale Insurance Agent
Mr. Casale arrived at the school around 2:43 pm to pick up his children and noticed smoke coming from the northeast corner of the building. He ran into the alley on the north side of the school where he saw children hanging out of the second floor windows. He then entered the north wing through the Avers entrance, and ran to the east end of the main hall on the first floor. Upon finding all classrooms evacuated, he continued through the annex and back outdoors on Iowa Street. He then ran back around to the Avers entrance again and up the west stairs to the second floor. The smoke here was so heavy he could barely see or breathe. He tried to vent some of the smoke by breaking out several windows on the second floor landing and badly cut his arm in the process. The heat and smoke quickly forced him down the stairs. Once back outdoors, he encountered numerous injured children who had jumped from the second floor. He loaded four injured children into his car and rushed them to the hospital, where he was also treated for his injuries.
 
Barbara Glowacki Parent, Owner of Candy Store Next to School
Glowacki, 29, was reading to her young son in the rear living quarters of her candy store, located just north of the school. Suddenly, a passing salesman, Elmer Barkhaus, came in and asked to use her phone. Not wanting to allow a stranger into her living quarters, she told him she had no public phone. He turned and left, stating as he went that the school was on fire.

Barbara rushed out into the alley between her store and the school, and found to her horror that smoke was billowing from the school. She ran back into her store and called the fire department, who said they had already been notified and that help was on the way. She ran back outside to the alley, where children were now jumping from second floor windows of the school. Children were lying unconscious in the alley, injured from the fall. Barbara began dragging them away from the school so others wouldn't land on them.

Soon after that, she helped a number of injured children into her store and covered them with blankets to keep them warm until help arrived. Fortunately, her own daughter, Helena, escaped without injury.

 
Daniel Grimaldi Parent
Mr. Grimaldi, a 32-year-old father with two children in the school, was in a nearby barbershop when he saw children running by with no coats. “I ran to the school,” he said, “and went right in through the front door. It seemed all right there, so I ran upstairs.

“As soon as I got to the second floor, I saw smoke so thick you couldn't move. The boys and girls were screaming for help. I shouted, 'Grab my hand.'

“Some of them grabbed my hand and I led them back down the stairs.”

 
Casimir Janik Milkman
Janik, a 38-year-old milkman, was on his way home when he had an unexplainable impulse to deviate from his normal route, and soon came upon the burning school. After parking his milk truck, he ran inside and dragged a number of pupils to safety, including one girl frozen in terror on a stairwell, who was blocking the escape of others. “I found one girl, her shoes missing, hanging onto a banister, seemingly in a state of shock. I yanked her loose, took her to the church and placed her in a pew. Twice, I carried two girls out, one under each arm.”

“Every time I saw him from that day on,” said his niece, “I would have tears in my eyes due to the admiration I had for him. I would recount his heroism to everyone as I introduced him.”

 
Ed Klock Neighbor
Mr. Klock, 74, lived across the street from the school. When he heard the commotion at the school, he saw smoke billowing from the school and children leaping from windows. He ran to the school and tried to catch falling children, but they were heavy and coming so fast he could only break their fall. He yelled for his wife across the street to bring out some blankets, which she did. He draped blankets over injured children lying on the ground, when he suddenly felt a stabbing pain in the chest. He tried to continue helping the children, but the pain quickly became overwhelming and he collapsed.
 
James Moran Auto Dealer
Mr. Moran, a Chicago Ford dealer, was so moved by the plight of the children that he started a fund to help pay the children's medical expenses. His initial personal donation was $15,000. He also contributed funds to rebuilding the school.
 
Daniel Pyciarello Parent
Mr. Pyciarello, a 33-year-old forester whose 5-year-old son was in a separate building, caught falling children until he could no longer stand up straight. “They came down so fast, they bowled me over.”
 
Louis Ross Neighbor
Mr. Ross, Uncle of students Joyce and James Peneschi, was working nearby when he heard about the fire. He quickly drove his truck, on which he carried several ladders, to the school, where he placed his ladders up against the school and participated in the rescue efforts. Louis passed away in 1970.
 
Conrad Rossi Neighbor
Rossi, who lived half a block south of the school, was walking past the school when he saw children running out into the cold without their coats, and heard a priest shout, “Fire!” Rossi ran into the building and led several children through the thick smoke and out to safety. He ran back in several more times, sometimes ordering children to hold hands as he led them out, sometimes carrying them. After repeatedly running into the school, the smoke had become so thick that he was getting groggy and sick.
 
Harry Rozkuszka Parent
Mr. Rozkuszka, whose daughter, Wanda, was a fourth grader in the school, helped tear down the iron fence blocking firemen's access to the courtyard. Once firemen could enter the courtyard, they placed ladders at the windows of rooms 209 and 211 and began rescuing children from those blazing classrooms. Then, as children were rescued from those rooms, Mr. Rozkuszka helped carry the injured to awaiting ambulances and squadrols.
 
Max Stachura Parent
Mr. Stachura was the father of Mark Stachura, a fourth grader in room 210. Max was at home near the school when he smelled smoke and soon realized it was coming from the school. He rushed down the alley to the north side of the school where he helped Mario Camarini, the school's assistant janitor, carry and place a ladder at one of the second floor windows of room 208 in the alley north of the school. He then spotted his son, Mark, at one of the windows of room 210 and, fearing that Mark would be injured if he jumped, ran home and got his own ladder. When he placed the ladder against the school, he realized it was far too short, so he knew there was no choice but to encourage Mark to jump. Other children around Mark did jump, and Max caught several of them, but Mark was fearful. Finally, as Mark struggled to climb over the sill, the room flashed over and Mark fell back into the room. It was the last time Max saw his son alive.
 
James Sturtevant 8th Grade Student
James, an 8th grader in room 209, managed to escape from his burning classroom without significant injury. As he stood in the courtyard watching the disaster unfold before him, a classmate, Phillip DeChristopher, fell off a ladder and landed hard on the concrete. James rushed over to check on Phillip, who was unconscious. He picked up his injured classmate and carried him to the street, where he was placed in a police squadrol, still unconscious, and rushed to Franklin Blvd Hospital. It was soon discovered that Phillip had a fractured skull leading to acute hemorrhaging from his ear. By the time he reached the hospital, he had lost a tremendous amount of blood, and would likely have bled to death had he not reached the hospital when he did. James quick action undoubtedly helped save his classmate's life.
 
Alice Tarsa Neighbor
Mrs. Tarsa, who lived across Avers Avenue from the school, took at least 12 cold, frightened children into her home, so they could wait in warmth until they could be reunited with their parents.
 
Antoinette Tartaglia Neighbor
Mrs. Tartaglia, who lived across Avers Avenue from the school, took in cold, frightened children, so they could wait in warmth until they could be reunited with their parents.
 
Sam Tortorice Parent
Mr. Tortorice, a 42-year-old sheet metal worker who had two daughters in the school, was at home less than a block from the school, when he smelled a strong odor of smoke. He stepped outside and saw to his horror that smoke was billowing up from the school.

He ran to the school where he saw his 13-year-old daughter, Rose, among a crowd of children in the window of her classroom, room 209. He ran into the school and made his way to second floor of the annex connecting the north and south wings of the school. He threw open the annex window nearest the window where his daughter and other children were screaming for help. He swung his leg out the window and sat straddling the window ledge, where he could just reach the nearest students in Rose's window. He began pulling children through their classroom window and in through the annex window, where they could run down a flight of stairs and outside to safety. He managed to save several children this way, but Rose remained out of reach behind other panicky children at the window. A neighbor had tossed a ladder over the courtyard fence, so Tortorice jumped down to a canopy over a first-floor entrance below his window, and then to the ground. Using the ladder he climbed back onto the canopy, then pulled the ladder up and placed it from the canopy to his daughter's classroom window. He climbed up the ladder and again started pulling children from the window.

Meanwhile, Father Joe Ognibene was in the annex helping children escape down the interior stairways, when he noticed Mr. Tortorice struggling to rescue children from room 209. Father Ognibene leaned out the same window Tortorice had climbed through, and began pulling children into the annex as Tortorice pulled them from the classroom. Working together, they were able to rescue nearly all of the remaining children from the burning classroom. Only one child, Beverly Burda, failed to escape from room 209. She had passed out after being overcome by smoke, and fell to the floor. The room was so thick with smoke that no one could see her lying on the floor.

Sam Tortorice not only saved his daughter, Rose, but a great many of her classmates as well.

 
Civilians Listed: 17

Page last updated: 3/3/2017