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Irish parade organizers: It’s important to honor first responders

Parade-related EVENTS

Fundraising party, 7 p.m. to midnight Friday at 115 Bourbon Street, 3359 W. 115th St., Merrionette Park. Tickets are $30 and include a buffet dinner, drinks and live entertainment. You must be 21 to attend.

The parade store, 10934 S. Western Ave., is open from noon to 6 p.m. Wednesdays and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays. T-shirts, raffle tickets and tickets to Friday’s fundraiser are for sale.

Customized “Tradition Marches On” street-pole banners are for sale for $225. They will be displayed along Western Avenue through March. For more information, call (773) 972-6264.

Jump Zone kids party, 4 to 8 p.m. Monday, at Jump Zone, 10140 Virginia Ave., Chicago Ridge. Two sessions; tickets are $10. Open for kids ages 2 to 9. No drop-offs.

Prizes for kids wearing the most green or dressed in St. Patrick’s Day attire. Pizza and pop will be available for purchase. For more information, visit southsideirishparadejumpzone-eorgf.eventbrite.com/#

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Updated: March 14, 2013 6:31AM



Memories came flooding back Tuesday for Gina King, the widow of a firefighter who died in 1998 while battling a fire at a tire store in Chicago’s Beverly community.

The site of the fire is now King-Lockhart Memorial Park, named after her husband, Patrick King, and Anthony Lockhart, both killed fighting the fire 15 years ago Monday night.

Fittingly, the park on Tuesday was where organizers of this year’s South Side Irish St. Patrick’s Day Parade chose to announce that first responders will be the grand marshals for the March 10 parade down Western Avenue. Three first responders from the area died in the past year: firefighter Walter Patmon Jr., fire Capt. Herbie Johnson and police officer Michael Flisk.

Their widows were given a bouquet of flowers Tuesday by the parade committee, as was King, of Tinley Park.

“I’m honored that they remember him,” King said of her husband. “It keeps his spirit alive.”

She recalled watching a TV report about the tire store fire on that fateful night and wondering whether her husband was on the scene.

“It seems like yesterday. I feel like he’s still at the firehouse sometimes. You don’t want to admit to it,” she said.

Many police officers and firemen call Chicago’s 19th Ward “home,” so parade organizers thought it appropriate that the popular annual event salute those who work in the face of danger. Parade committee co-chair Joe Connelly said the choice was easy.

“They get so little attention for all the good they do. It’s well-deserved and probably way overdue. Given some of the passings we’ve seen in the neighborhood, we felt it more important to honor first responders,” Connelly said.

At the parade kickoff ceremony at the park, 10615 S. Western Ave., floral wreaths were placed above the words “duty,” “honor” and “family” inscribed on a wall. The widows of Patmon, Johnson and Flisk all were presented with a small version of the green banners that bear their husbands’ names and will be displayed on poles near the park through March.

“This was really nice, a beautiful tribute to them,” said Johnson’s widow, Susan Johnson.

“It’s wonderful how they support the families and keep lifting us up,” Diane Patmon said. “I’m doing OK.”

She’s looking forward to leading the parade.

“I’m hoping its warmer. I never expected to be in a parade. This is a great honor,” Patmon said.

Having the families of the three marching at the front of the parade “reinforces what our parade is about,” Connelly said.

“It’s about families. It’s about neighborhoods. It’s about honoring the men and women who provide us the neighborhood that we enjoy living in,” he said.

The first responders provide “an invaluable service” to the city’s residents, Connelly said, and sometimes “pay the ultimate sacrifice.”

The Rev. Frank Kuruncz, pastor of St. Cajetan’s Roman Catholic Church, said a prayer, asking that God watch over first responders and their families.

“Our streets are often filled with violence and bloodshed. ... we thank you for those who are willing to (answer) the call of shots fired, gang warfare and domestic violence. We are grateful for those who run into burning buildings,” Kuruncz said in his prayer.

Chicago Ald. Matt O’Shea (19th) said many in the community have strong memories of the fire at the park site, and the men who died “fighting to protect the community.”

“We’ll never forget their commitment and sacrifice. And that’s why we have this beautiful park today honoring them and all first responders,” O’Shea said.



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