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‘A life worth emulating': Thousands gather to mourn fallen Chicago firefighter

Family members and fellow firefighters remembered Andrew “Drew” Price as warm, adventurous and a frequent prankster


Pallbearers carry a case containing the ashes of Andrew Price during the remembrance ceremony outside Navy Pier, Nov. 20, 2023.

Antonio Perez/TNS

By Alysa Guffey, Madeline Buckley
Chicago Tribune

CHICAGO — Every year, the Chicago Fire Department holds a voluntary fitness challenge in October, and each time, Andrew Price completed it in costume.

Last month, the firefighter ran, stretched and did situps dressed like the Joker, of the Batman franchise, said Fire Commissioner Annette Nance-Holt , speaking to a crowd who came to Navy Pier to mourn Price on Monday afternoon.

“If you knew Drew you knew he was the ultimate jokester of the firehouse,” firefighter Dustin Jeffers told the crowd afterward.

In a packed ballroom, family members and fellow firefighters remembered Price as warm, adventurous and a frequent prankster, someone who showed an excited toddler around the firehouse and hid under the beds of his colleagues to jump out and scare them.

Known as “Drew” to his friends and family, Price, 39, died last week after succumbing to “significant injuries” suffered while battling a blaze in Lincoln Park . Price fell through a shaft on the roof of a four-story building, at 2430-2432 N. Lincoln Ave. , which contains the Lincoln Station restaurant on the ground floor and apartments on the upper floors.

As the day began, a line to pay respects to the firefighter snaked to the back of the ballroom. Two members of the Fire Department’s honor guard stood in front of his remains in the ballroom, as firefighters, police and paramedics saluted. Price’s on-duty Truck 44 helmet was placed on a table next to his official department portrait.

Nance-Holt remarked that of all her years on the job, Monday’s line of mourners was one of the longest she’d ever seen.

“One of my command staff members commented that not one single person had anything bad to say about Drew,” Nance-Holt said. “That speaks volumes about the type of person Drew was and the character that he possessed.”

Mayor Brandon Johnson was unable to attend, but his chief of staff Rich Guidice was present.

Members of Price’s battalion walked up to the podium in a group of about a dozen, growing emotional — and occasionally chuckling — as they remembered Price’s sense of humor and willingness to help his fellow firefighters, making their days brighter and jobs a little easier.

Battalion Chief Pat Gallagher recalled meeting Price on his first day and watching the nervous new firefighter become the target of pranks from the rest of the group.

They would tell him to take a seat, Gallagher said, then loudly complain that Price wasn’t doing anything.

“He was told to do something, he did it, got yelled at for doing it and then did it again,” Gallagher said. “It was at that point in time that I knew Drew was not only going to fit in at the firehouse but that he was going to be a great fireman.”

Members of the station said Price was one of the hardest-working people there, always the first one at the firehouse.

Price was the main driver for Truck 44, one of the most important and respected jobs at the station, said firefighter John Haring , who would ride with Price in the front seat.

“It was a position of leadership and respect,” Haring said. “And (Price) took all of that with so much pride.”

When driving on duty, Price was known for waving to kids up and down the streets of the Lincoln Park neighborhood, so much so that kids would see Truck 44 and wave before Price had the chance to initiate it, he said. Price’s signature wave was the Mahalo hand gesture, a Hawaiian sign for gratitude.

“There’s a generation of kids in Lincoln Park right now that give that sign to Truck 44 all the time,” Haring said.

Price’s brother, Jordan, called him a “natural caretaker at heart” who put the needs’ of others above his own. He lived with a “wild sense of adventure,” and often drew new people in, quickly becoming friends.

“Drew lived a life worth emulating,” Jordan Price said.

Price joined the Fire Department in 2009 and was an instructor at the academy. He was assigned to Truck No. 44 in 2015.

He was the fourth firefighter to die in the line of duty in Chicago this year.

Price’s sister-in-law, Vanessa Mohr , started a GoFundMe to support his family, which has raised nearly $75,000. She wrote that Price was a devoted husband, son, brother, uncle and friend, who embodied a “just chill life, always encouraging others to appreciate the little things.”

“He taught us to love harder, act kinder, and search for joy in every moment,” she wrote.

After the service, uniformed firefighters gathered at the end of the pier to send off Truck 44. Chicago fireboats sprayed water in tribute and a department helicopter flew overhead.

The sound of bagpipes cut through the rough wind as the truck drove down the pier and back to land.

Chicago Tribune’s Rebecca Johnson contributed.

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