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‘Herbie never backed down from anything’

Herbie Johnsdied fire Friday night. He's seen here aftermath fatal fire 2006. | John H. White~Chicago Sun-Times

Herbie Johnson died in a fire Friday night. He's seen here in the aftermath of a fatal fire in 2006. | John H. White~Chicago Sun-Times

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Updated: December 4, 2012 6:18AM



Of course Herbie Johnson would have run into a burning building, captain’s promotion or not.

He was not the type to half-step, said a longtime friend from Johnson’s Morgan Park block.

Everything he did was large, Marty Gallagher said.

“When we heard he went into the fire, nobody on the block was the least bit surprised,” Gallagher said. “Herbie never backed down from anything.”

Johnson and his wife, Sue, moved in almost 30 years ago, a few years after the Gallaghers.

“We raised our kids together,” Gallagher said. “The whole block is in shock, quite frankly.”

One of Johnson’s brothers, a Chicago Police officer, lives there; so does a sister.

Johnson’s house flew an American flag off the front porch. On Friday evening, people gathered on the porch. Folks cried out front and along the street.

Johnson’s older son, Thomas, is a Marine who’d served in Afghanistan, Gallagher said. His daughter, Laurie, lives in the neighborhood.

And his younger son, Mickey, plays on the football team at Carthage College in Kenosha, Wis., said Sue Haddon of Glen Ellyn, whose son is on the same team.

Herbie Johnson was active on the parents’ committee, helping with cookouts and special events.

“Herbie was a huge life force,” Haddon said. “He was a great family man.”

Haddon said Johnson proudly confided to her that he was recently promoted to captain. He texted her a Happy Halloween message Thursday.

“This is a huge loss,” she said, crying.

Gallagher said Johnson’s immediate family wasn’t at home Friday evening. Firefighters came to the home to take Sue Johnson to the hospital where her husband died.

She had worried about her husband constantly, Gallagher said.

“She knew he would be the first guy into the fire,” he said.

Contributing: Frank Main



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