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Huntley fire captain remembered as ‘great guy to be around’

John Winkelman

John Winkelman

John Winkelman, was a lifelong firefighter who spent the majority of his career in the far northwest suburbs, but what he may be remembered for most were the practical jokes he played on co-workers.

The Marengo resident died died Thursday, April 12, in Centegra Hospital – Woodstock from injuries he sustained after being thrown from his motorcycle in a collision with a car. He was 54.

“He was a jokester,” said Deputy Chief Ken Caudle, of the Huntley Fire Protection District. “He was pretty quiet for a larger man, and would always sneak up from behind and startle the heck out of you.”

His carefree attitude and dedication to fire safety made an otherwise strenuous job more enjoyable for the firefighters and paramedics he spent more than a third of his life with. Winkelman was always levelheaded and could always be found with a smile on his face.

“You never saw him get upset,” said Caudle, who worked side-by-side Winkelman for more than 12 years. “He was great to work for and great to work with.”

Winkelman was born in Belvidere, and was a 24-year veteran of the Huntley Fire Protection District and former chief of the Marengo Rescue Squad. He was raised in Marengo and graduated from Marengo Community High School in 1976.

After an 18-year career in Marengo, he worked as a volunteer firefighter in Huntley for three years before becoming a full-time employee in 1991. He was made a captain in 2000.

“It’s like losing a brother and a family member,” Caudle said. “It hits you professionally and personally because you spend so much time together. He loved being a fireman and loved life. He was one of the nice guys.”

Winkelman is survived by his wife of 16 years, Lynn; daughters Sherie O’Neil, Tara Swafford and Julie Winkelman; stepsons Matthew and Richard Altepeter; brother Joe Winkelman; mother-in-law Jean Nepstad; seven grandchildren; and many nieces, nephews and cousins.

The funeral will take place at 11 a.m. Wednesday at St. John’s Lutheran Church, 6812 Main St., Union. A procession from the church to the Marengo City Cemetery will take place immediately following the funeral service.

Visitation will be held from 4 to 9 p.m. Tuesday at the Cosman Center, 12015 Mill St., Huntley, and again from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. Wednesday at the church.

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