CLEVELAND (WJW) — Facing a world without their father, the daughters of killed Cleveland firefighter Johnny Tetrick drew upon his lessons when thinking about the driver accused in his death.
“We’re not upset. We hope that he knows that,” said Falon Tetrick. “My dad would not be upset. He would not want us to be bitter or have any hatred toward him. People make mistakes.”
Cleveland Fire Chief Anthony Luke and Cleveland firefighters remembered Johnny Tetrick, a 27-year veteran of the Cleveland Fire Department who was killed Saturday, Nov. 19, in a hit-and-run crash along Interstate 90, at a gathering Wednesday at Station No. 22 along Superior Avenue, where Tetrick worked.
Tetrick worked several jobs, including at a machine shop on the third shift — often logging about 130 work hours a week, Falon said. She once asked him why he stayed on with the fire department at 51 years old, knowing how dangerous it was. His father, Kris, also begged him to retire, telling him he was “tempting fate,” he said Wednesday.
Johnny told his daughter it was so they could have health insurance, she said.
“Every single day, he was constantly putting others above himself. There was not a day where he put himself first,” Regan said. “That was what he taught us every single day. When he picked us up from school, he asked us before we got out of the car — he said, ‘Who do you live for?’ We replied, ‘God and others.'”
Investigators said Leander Bissell, 40, was driving drunk when he struck and killed Tetrick — who was working the scene of a rollover crash along the interstate that night — then sped off. Bissell is charged with aggravated vehicular homicide and for failing to stop after an accident.
He shouldn’t be walking free, said Tetrick’s daughter Eden — but he’s still deserving of forgiveness.
“My dad was everything to all three of us. We talked all the time. We told him everything. He was our support system — 100%,” said daughter Eden. “[Bissell] is a human being. He still has the value of being a human being. Just because he did a bad thing does not mean we hate him or that he should feel guilty or horrible for the rest of his life.
“He still deserves respect just like everybody else does.”
Regan called her father’s death “a tremendous loss.” But she said he would want them to forgive Bissell, “because we were once forgiven by God.”
Bob Schwind, Tetrick’s lieutenant for the last seven years, remembered the man as “a helper and servant” — a man who “did everything the right way” and was always ready to answer the call.
“He did that 7 days a week and 365 days a year,” he said “The fact that he got paid to do it … that was just a bonus to him.”
Ray Wacker, who worked with Johnny for the last six years, remembered his infectious smile. He recalled something the firefighters said after Tetrick’s death:
“The most valuable thing you can give in life is your time — because they’re not making any more of it,” Wacker said. “When I heard that, I thought, ‘That’s Johnny, right there.’
“He would give his time for anybody. And he did give his time for anybody,” he said. “I feel so lucky to have lived with him and learned from him.”
Tetrick’s calling hours are Friday 1-4 p.m. and 6-8 p.m. at Friends Church: Willoughby Hills at 2846 Som Center Road, where he was a member. Then the funeral is going to be held downtown Cleveland at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse Saturday at 11 a.m.
“He deserves a full arena,” said Schwind. “Anyone that is able to come out and pay their respects to a great man and a great firefighter should do so.”
Luke said it would mean the world to Johnny’s wife and three daughters to have the community come out to his funeral on Saturday.
“They’re hurting,” Luke said. “We’re just trying to comfort them, to tell them we’re there. That they are now part of the fire service family. We joked that they just got 800 dads that are going to annoy them to no end.”