Fire Fighter Wolterman: "Bravery And Courage, Focused On Helping Others"
Thousands, including fire fighters from all over Ohio and around the country, came to Butler County Thursday to honor a fallen fire fighter Thursday morning, packing the spacious Princeton Pike Church of God in Liberty Township.
They came to say goodbye to 28-year-old Patrick Wolterman, the Hamilton fire fighter who died early Monday morning from injuries suffered while battling a house fire.
It was a Catholic funeral mass, presided over by Father George Jacquemin of St. Clare Church in College Hill. An estimated 3,700 people - including 2,000 uniformed fire fighters from Ohio and across the country - filled the church.
Jacquemin, the parish priest at St. Clare Church in College, Hill, said he knew Wolterman since he was a boy.
Wolterman grew up to be a man willing to make a Christ-like sacrifice, Jacquemin said - the willingness to give up his life for others.
"We do not understand why a young man dies tragically like this,'' Jacquemin said, "We give thanks to him for giving his life in little ways and the ultimate sacrifice. We give thanks to those who have the courage to run into danger."
An honor guard of Hamilton fire fighters solemnly lifted their fallen brother's casket off the fire engine and carried it inside, where a pall was placed over the flag-draped casket.
Musician Darin Art, playing the piano, sang '"Amazing Grace" as hundreds of blue-clad fire fighters filed into the pews.
Wolterman, a relative newcomer to the Hamilton department but an experienced fire fighter, died early Monday morning of injuries received while fighting a fire in the 1300 block of Pater Avenue.
Dawson, in his remarks at the funeral, said that Wolterman, with a fellow fire fighter “breached the front door and entered the burning structure, never questioning that he was serving the citizens, that he was making a difference.”
Wolterman performed, Dawson said, “with bravery and courage, focused on helping others.”
At the funeral, Hamilton Fire Chief Steven Dawson said that ,“out of respect for his service,” Wolterman’s badge number – 89 – will be retired.
Wolterman was also awarded the Hamilton Fire Medal for Meritorious Service and the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 20 Medal of Valor.
“Never again to be used by the Hamilton Fire Department,’’ Dawson said. “It is just one small measure t o commemorate the sacrifice that he made for this fire department and this city.”
Wolterman's coffin was placed on a specially-fitted fire engine early Thursday morning at Hodapp Funeral Home in College Hill for a long procession to the the Princeton Pike Church of God where the funeral was held.
As is the tradition with fallen firefighters, Wolterman's helmet and gear were attached to the front of the fire engine - a symbol of his last call to duty.
The Hamilton firefighter would have turned 29 years old on Jan. 22. He and his wife, Bre, a teacher, were married in May 2015. They met on a double-date with Wolterman’s sister, also a teacher.
At the time they were married in May, Wolterman had been with the Hamilton Fire Department for only a month. But he was an experienced fire fighter, having served with the Colerain Township department from 2008 until 2015 and with the Fairfield Township Fire Department in 2014 and 2015.
He earned an associate degree in fire service from the University of Cincinnati in 2011.
He was certified to do river rescue prior to joining the Hamilton Fire Department, which his superiors said was a rarity for new fire fighters.
A former football player for Roger Bacon High School in St. Bernard, he was an avid swimmer and golfer who was a fan of the Cincinnati Bengals, the Cincinnati Reds and the University of Cincinnati’s basketball and football teams.
In remarks prepared for delivery at the funeral, Hamilton Fire Fighters Union Local 20 president Brian Ruhl said he is sorry that his time with Wolterman, who joined the department in May, was cut short.
“Patrick Wolterman knew what it was to be a fire fighter,’’ Ruhl said.
The union president said that Jason Callihan, one of Wolterman’s crew mates at Station 25 described the fallen fire fighter as not “a normal new guy.”
“He understood the unofficial fire department hierarchy,” Ruhl said. “As a matter of fact, so as not to be outdone with the fire station household chores, Patrick would set an alarm clock so he could wake up before the other guys and make sure he got the dishwasher emptied and a pot of coffee started.”
Wolterman, Ruhl said, “was passionate about being involved in the community and with our fire fighters union.”
“Just this summer, while working on a project with Patrick and Fire Fighter Dave Oakley, we stopped by my house and had a beer on a break,’’ Ruhl said. “It was a short time together, but afterward I knew that those were two guys who understood what it meant to be brothers.”
The entire department is suffering with the loss, Ruhl said.
“But we cannot let that loss stop us from carrying on as Patrick Wolterman would have wanted,’’ Ruhl said.
A precession was to take Wolterman to Spring Grove Cemetery for a private burial service with family and firefighters.