‘I love you, brother’ — Crowd mourns fallen Chicago firefighter Jermaine Pelt

Pelt, 49, died April 4 while battling an extra-alarm fire in West Pullman. His funeral was Friday morning at House of Hope in Pullman.

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Pallbearers for Chicago Fire Department firefighter Jermaine Pelt salute after his funeral Friday at House of Hope in the Pullman neighborhood.

Pallbearers for Chicago Fire Department firefighter Jermaine Pelt salute after his funeral Friday at House of Hope in the Pullman neighborhood.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Friends and family recalled with tears Friday the exemplary life of Chicago firefighter Jermaine Pelt, who died in the line of duty April 4.

“Jermaine was one of those special people who constantly found ways to serve and help others,” Chicago Fire Commissioner Annette Nance-Holt said.

She related how Pelt, after hearing from a friend who worked at a special care facility about a patient in need, didn’t hesitate to reach into his own pocket to help — even though he’d never met the individual.

Hundreds of people, including scores of uniformed firefighters and police, attended the service at House of Hope, 752 E. 114th St., a megachurch in the Pullman neighborhood.

Good friend Chris Murray said he was going to miss cooking, playing cards and watching sports with Pelt.

“Jermaine was the epitome of integrity. He did the right thing. And if you wanted to be a part of his life, you had to be doing something right in yours,” he said.

“When we left each other, we always said ‘I love you, brother.’ And for a final time, I have to say: I love you, brother.”

Mourners pay their respects at the casket of Jermaine Pelt, 49, at the start of funeral service at House of Hope in Chicago on Friday. Pelt, a Chicago firefighter, died on duty while at a fire in West Pullman.

Mourners pay their respects at the casket of Jermaine Pelt, 49, at the start of funeral service at House of Hope in Chicago on Friday. Pelt, a Chicago firefighter, died on duty while at a fire in West Pullman.

Pool photo/Chicago Tribune

Another former classmate and close friend, Tammy Johnson, recalled how Pelt showed up when she was moving from one home to another.

“I’m so glad you came,” she recalled saying. “But you do know I hired movers, right?”

Pelt’s response: “I came just in case.“

“And that was Jermaine, he was there just in case,” she said.

“He was always trying to do better, and we spent a lot of hard time talking about doing better, our health, trying to be more healthy, or grow spiritually or expand our career paths. He was always trying to do better, and that’s all you can ask of a person,” she said.

John and Lizzie Pelt, parents of Chicago firefighter Jermaine Pelt, and Jermaine’s daughter Jorie watch Jermaine’s casket loaded onto a fire truck after the firefighter’s funeral on Friday, April 14, 2023.

John and Lizzie Pelt, parents of Chicago firefighter Jermaine Pelt, and Jermaine’s daughter Jorie watch Jermaine’s casket loaded onto a fire truck after the firefighter’s funeral on Friday.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Pelt, 49, died while putting out a house fire in West Pullman. He joined the Chicago Fire Department in 2005 and was based on the South Side his entire career.

Pelt was a registered nurse, a paramedic and an instructor at the fire academy. Fellow firefighters remembered him as “the kindest person” at work and a great firehouse cook.

His father, John Pelt, a retired CTA motorman, said he steered his son toward the fire department over the police department because it seemed the less dangerous of the two.

He recalled how his son nicked himself with a knife when he was a toddler so he could get a Band-Aid. “That’s the nurse talking,” he said with a laugh.

Firefighter Jermaine Pelt

Firefighter Jermaine Pelt

Chicago Fire Department

Another time, the youngster got his hands on some matches.

“So that’s the fireman talking,” he said.

“What would you do if you didn’t have firemen and police? ... I love the fire department, and I love the police. Thank you,” his father said.

Pelt celebrated a birthday in March and the marriage of his 28-year-old daughter last November. And he occasionally brought his 6-year-old son to his firehouse, Nance-Holt said.

Family of Chicago firefighter Jermaine Pelt stand together outside House of Hope in the Pullman neighborhood.

Family of Chicago firefighter Jermaine Pelt stand together after his funeral at House of Hope in Pullman.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Pelt was part of the crews that responded to a house fire in the 12000 block of South Wallace Street in the early hours of April 4. The blaze eventually spread to three buildings.

Pelt was dousing the fire with a hose from the second floor of a neighboring building when that structure also caught fire.

Pelt was working alongside a lieutenant when the two received an order to evacuate the building.

“His partner started to leave and thought [Pelt] was right behind him. When they realized that he went down, a mayday was called,” fire spokesman Larry Langford said.

Pelt was quickly found, brought out for treatment and taken to Christ Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. An autopsy found Pelt died of smoke inhalation.

Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson attended the funeral, as did his mayoral opponent, Paul Vallas.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot did not attend; she was at a conference in New York. Her wife, Amy Eshleman, was at the service, as was Ald. Ed Burke (14th).

Pelt was one of two Chicago firefighters who died in the line of duty last week. Jan Tchoryk, a lieutenant, died a day after Pelt as he helped fight a high-rise fire in the Gold Coast neighborhood.

Hundreds attended Tchoryk’s funeral service Thursday at St. Joseph the Betrothed Ukrainian Catholic Church in Chicago.

Contributing: Michael Loria

Firefighters salute as pallbearers for Chicago Fire Department firefighter Jermaine Pelt carry his casket into his funeral Friday at House of Hope in the Pullman neighborhood.

Firefighters salute as pallbearers for Chicago Fire Department firefighter Jermaine Pelt carry his casket into his funeral Friday at House of Hope in the Pullman neighborhood.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

A Chicago Fire Department engine is adorned with firefighter Jermaine Pelt’s gear and bunting for his funeral Friday morning.

A Chicago Fire Department engine is adorned with firefighter Jermaine Pelt’s gear and bunting for his funeral Friday morning.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Hundreds gather for the funeral for Chicago Fire Department firefighter Jermaine Pelt at House of Hope on Friday.

Chicago Fire Department battalion members pay tribute to fallen firefighter Jermaine Pelt outside his funeral in Pullman Friday.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Firefighters stand as the casket of Chicago firefighter Jermaine Pelt is placed on a fire truck after Pelt’s funeral outside House of Hope in the Pullman neighborhood.

Firefighters stand as the casket of Chicago firefighter Jermaine Pelt is placed on a fire truck after Pelt’s funeral outside House of Hope in the Pullman neighborhood.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

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