Tears flow at funeral for beloved Kane fireman

Photo by Ted Lutz — Soleumn pallbearers bring the casket of “Millie” Kearney from the Ronald McDonald II Funeral Home following a funeral service Saturday for the 61-year member of the Kane Volunteer Fire Department. Lead pallbearers are Fire Chief Tim Holt, left, and Second Assistant Fire Chief Daryl Snyder, right.
Ted Lutz
Staff Writer

Sleepless nights.
Hungry days.
Wind, rain, freezing temperatures, searing heat.
“Millie” Kearney willingly endured these hardships and more as a devoted member of the Kane Volunteer Fire Department for 61 years.
Friends and family in the community he served — as well as volunteer firemen from throughout the region — bid farewell to their beloved “Millie” at a emotional and ceremonial funeral Saturday at the Ronald McDonald II Funeral Home in Kane. 
The 84-year-old fireman, who up until a year ago still put on his “turnout” gear to respond to alarms, died Tuesday.
“He went where others feared to tread,” the Rev. David Pflieger in a tribute to Kearney’s long service as a volunteer fireman. “He was always on the go.”
Pflieger, the chaplain for the fire department, presided at the funeral service. Many in the standing-room-only crowd tried in vain to hold back tears.
Kearney was a past assistant chief in the fire department and at one time served as president of the West Side Hose Company.
Pflieger also is the chaplain at The Lutheran Home at Kane where Kearney resided for just over a year.
Pflieger said “Millie” had “a faith that wouldn’t quit.”
He believes Kearney also felt “a sense of peace” as he neared the “end of his journey.” He said the long-time fireman’s wish was for the Kane Volunteer Fire Department to “keep up the good work.”
In his eulogy, Kane Fire Chief Tim Holt called “Millie” “one of those people who has an impact on your life.”
He said Kearney was a “role model” for other members of the fire department. He said “Millie” stepped up to handle many jobs in the fire department — even the most mundane tasks of “rolling hose and sweeping the floor.”
Holt recalled some anecdotes linked with Kearney’s long service as a volunteer fireman.
He said “Millie,” as the department’s “safety officer,” often warned fellow firemen about icy spots or obstacles at a fire scene.
“Then it was ‘Millie’ who fell,” the Holt said with a grin.
“That was ‘Millie,’” the chief said.
His voice cracking with emotion, Holt said “Millie” has “always” been a devoted Kane fireman.
“He loved the Kane fire department,” the chief said.
After the funeral service, the pall bearers placed the casket on the rear of Engine 57 for a fire truck procession through Kane en route to the Mount Tabor Cemetery.
Matt Rich, Kearney’s grandson and a Kane fireman, drove Engine 57.
Holt served as a pallbearer along with five other Kane firemen — Daryl Snyder, Jim Greville, Justin Menteer, Casey Menteer and Jim Iannuzzi.
The fire department maintained a two-member honor guard at the casket in the funeral home during the Friday evening calling hours and the service Saturday.
Taking turns as members of the honor guard were firemen Matt Bressler, Rhonda Holt, Tom Holt, Justin Menteer, Casey Menteer, Travis Snyder, Cheyenne Wheatley, Austin Fox and Tom Aiello.
At the close of the service, Aiello rang a large bell 15 times — three sets of five each. Kane is station No. 5.
The badges of firemen attending the service were shrouded in black.
A fire truck procession went west on Chestnut Street, north on Park Avenue and east on Poplar Street to Fraley Street.
As Engine 57 carrying the casket passed the fire hall on Poplar Street, the horn sounded the “last call” for “Millie.”
The fire truck procession proceeded south on Fraley Street and passed beneath a large American flag. The flag was suspended from the extended ladders of aerial trucks from Kane and St. Marys.
A private service was held at the cemetery.
The Kane Fire Auxiliary served a luncheon at the fire hall after the funeral and truck procession.