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Remembering Capt. Herbie Johnson: "To Know Him, Was to Love Him"

Capt. Herbie Johnson, a Beverly resident, died yesterday after battling a fire. Those who knew him reflect on the loss.

For residents of the 19th Ward the death of a firefighter or police officer always hits close to home.

Capt. Herbie Johnson, a 32-year veteran of the Chicago Fire Department, after injuries sustained while responding to a fire on South Side. 

The West Beverly resident was remembered by those who knew him as a caring family man and an outgoing neighbor. 

"This is a sad day for Chicago, and an especially sad day for our neighborhood," said Ald. Matt O'Shea. "Herbie Johnson was a dedicated firefighter, husband, brother, father and an active member of St. Cajetan Parish. To know him was to love him."

O'Shea was a neighbor of Johnson's and reflected on the impact his death would have on all who knew him. He mentioned other local police officers and firefighters who have given their lives for the protection of this city's residents. 

"This is a very tight knit community, especially when it comes to firefighters and police officers," O'Shea said.

Johnson is survived by a wife, two sons and a daughter. 

Meghan Linehan is a close friend of Johnson's daughter Laurie. She remembers a man who was always happy, so full of life. 

"Mr. Johnson was one of those people that was always happy, always so full of life," Linehan wrote. "He was the life of the party and always had a huge smile on his face. He always seemed so manly and strong, but he also had a soft side that was plain to see by the way he treated his daughter."

She describes a man who doted on his only daughter and who would treat her friends the same, a freindly face who they would sometimes run into when they were out along Western Avenue. He was always happy to buy someone a drink.

"He always took care of other people, whether it was at the bar buying someone a drink, or rescuing victims in a blazing fire," Linehan says. "He truly was an amazing father, husband and firefighter."

Many of those who knew Johnson speak of the love and pride he had for his family.

"His legend will live on through his sons, one of whom just returned from serving in Afghanistan, his wife, and his daughter," Linehan says. "Just by looking at them, you can see and remember Herbie."

Every tree and light post on the Johnson's block is tied with a black and purple ribbon. A somber reminder of the neighbor they have lost. 

The outpouring of love and support on the Beverly-Mt. Greenwood Patch Facebook page was immediate as news of Johnson's death began to spread. 

"I'll always remember the softball games we played together, wrote Andy Wasik. "A great and fun loving guy. I'll miss you Herbie. A great fireman and a better person."

Many neighbors recalled a man with a big smile and fun-loving personality. 

"My thoughts and prayers are with the Johnson family," Maggie Zaker wrote. "Maplewood will not be the same without Herbie. One of the greatest guys I've ever known, so much fun and always there for everyone."

That was a sentiment echoed by many. 

"He was a fun man at the firehouse, always joking and a hard worker," wrote Terry Sullivan, "he will be missed."

"Herbie your contagious smile & hearty laughter will be sorely missed," wrote Sandra Bartishell. 

An exact cause of death has not yet been released by the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office. Investigators are still piecing together what happened during the fire that took Johnson's life. 

A wake at Curley Funeral Home and funeral at Saint Rita High School are being planned for later in the week. 

Subscribe to Patch's breaking news alerts to receive notice on the latest developments. 

Updated, 2:20 p.m. 

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