CRYSTAL LAKE – John C. Winkelman, a 24-year veteran of the Huntley Fire Protection District and former chief of the Marengo Rescue Squad was killed Thursday in a motorcycle accident on Route 176 in Crystal Lake.
"He just absolutely loved his career. It that was his passion, he absolutely loved being a fireman," said Ken Caudle, a deputy chief with the Huntley Fire Protection District.
Caudle had worked with Winkelman for 12 years.
Winkelman was killed Thursday, April 12 when was he was thrown off his 2007 Harley-Davidson in a crash with a 2000 Chrysler Concorde driven by Kimberly Randall, 27, of Woodstock. Winkelman was going west on Route 176 when Randall, who was stopped at Mt. Thabor Road going south, tried to make a left onto Route 176. The vehicles collided when Randall tried to turn to go east on Route 176, police said.
Winkelman was taken to Centegra Hospital – Woodstock, where he died. Randall was taken to the hospital for minor injuries, police said.
"John was just a huge part of our family here and he will truly be missed. John is irreplaceable the type of person he was and what he stood for is to be commended," Caudle said.
Winkelman was made a captain in June 2000 and had recently completed his Fire Officer III training – a course specialized for officers preparing to advance into upper management levels of a department.
Among other accomplishments, Winkelman earned a humanitarian award for volunteer service in New Orleans just days after Hurricane Katrina. Winkelman in 2005 spent 21 days as part of a squad of volunteer firefighters from the area who went south to help in recovery and rescue just days after the massive hurricane flooded the city.
"He will be missed by many people who he was friends with and citizens he served in Huntley," said Jim Kreher, director of the Illinois Fire Chiefs Alliance and a deputy chief with the Fox River Grove Fire Department.
Kreher and Winkelman were close personally as well as professionally, and on Friday, Kreher remembered his friend as "one of the most easygoing guys I ever knew."
"He was quiet but always got his point across," Kreher said in an email to the Northwest Herald.
"Our family (firefighters) will keep John's family and his co-workers in our prayers," Kreher said. "John was truly one of the nice guys and I miss him already!"
Winkelman grew up in the Marengo area and started his career with the Marengo Rescue Squad.
"John was one of biggest practical jokesters," Caudle said. He remembered how Winkelman would sneak up behind co-workers and surprise them.
"He loved to have a good time. He was even tempered, laid back and easy going. I never ever ever saw him get upset – he always kept his cool," Caudle said.
Winkelman is survived by his wife, Lynn, who is a dispatcher for the Harvard Police Department, and three daughters and two step-sons, Caudle said.