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Cleveland firefighter dedicated his life to faith, family, friends, his loved ones say at funeral

Each of Johnny Tetrick’s daughters received a proclamation dedicated to his service as well as a helmet


A public funeral for Cleveland Firefighter Johnny Tetrick was held Saturday at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse.

Photo/Kaylee Remington/Tribune News Service

By Kaylee Remington

CLEVELAND — As seats in Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse filled up for fallen Cleveland firefighter Johnny Tetrick’s funeral, Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” played out of the loudspeakers over a slideshow of memories with family, friends and fellow brothers and sisters of the Cleveland Division of Fire.

Those pictured and hundreds of others honored Tetrick’s life and grieved his death on Saturday during a funeral service downtown. Tetrick, 51, was killed in the line of duty last week when he was struck by a hit-and-run driver while responding to a call of a car crash.

The morning stayed sunny for Tetrick’s funeral with a slight crisp to the fall air in Cleveland. Frost covered the grass along the route of the procession. As time got closer to the funeral service, “Believe” by Brooks and Dunn played. The arena grew silent as many watched the big screen play through pictures or bowed their heads in prayer.

Mayor Justin Bibb, Cleveland Public Safety Director Karrie Howard, Cleveland fire Chief Anthony Luke, Fire Chaplain Doug Brown, fire union representatives and pastors attended the funeral service to offer prayers and remarks to the family.

Tetrick, of Kirtland, was a Cleveland firefighter for 27 years, his last assignment being Engine 22. He is a father to three daughters: Falon, 23; Regan, 20; and Eden, 18. On Saturday, they each received a proclamation dedicated to their father’s service as well as a firefighter helmet.

Tetrick dedicated his life to three things: Faith, family and friends, according to those who eulogized him on Saturday. Being a firefighter also was his life, and he lived to serve and help others.

Those who spoke shared dozens of stories about their friend, whom they described as forgiving, brave and kind. He loved his daughters and comedy, and he was proud of his Korean heritage.

He followed the footsteps of his father, Kris, who was also a firefighter. His mother, Tsuruko, passed in 2020.

Falon, who was adopted by Tetrick at the age of three, said she could not comprehend at that time what it would mean to be a Tetrick.

“Growing up, my Dad would work three jobs to provide for us,” she said. “He was gone more than he was home and as kids, we would stand at the window and wave to him as he drove away, never knowing if he was going to come home that night.”

Coming home with his hands calloused and bloody, she said, Tetrick would still make time to lie down with his three girls.

Tetrick’s second daughter, Regan, called her father strong yet gentle, describing a man who carried himself with confidence but also with humility.

“My Dad had a heart overflowing with the love of God,” she said. “He was always willing to donate a helping hand, a listening ear, a genuine smile and an avid heart. He was the man you went to when you needed your oil changed, but he was also the man you went to when you needed your heart changed.”

“He was my world. He was my rock. He was my best friend. He taught me how to do everything except how to live without him.”

Last week, Tetrick responded to a crash on Interstate 90 in Bratenahl. While he was clearing the road of debris, a man, later identified by police as Leander Bissell, of Cleveland, struck him and drove away.

Tetrick later died at the hospital. Bissell was charged with aggravated vehicular homicide and failure to stop after an accident.

Tetrick lived to serve as a firefighter, but mostly he devoted everything to his daughters, said Eden, his youngest daughter. He took them on many trips and poured everything into raising the three of them, she added.

“Every morning he was in his chair, reading the bible, with a cup of coffee in hand,” Eden said.

Several other people spoke about Tetrick, including Luke and longtime friend Jeremy Williams.

“This morning my heart is broken,” Williams said, choking back tears. “I’m hurting. I ache inside the loss of my friend. I was with one of John’s fellow firefighters and he got the call. I couldn’t believe it.”

As much as he is hurting, Williams has heard many nice things about Tetrick through newspaper reports, online reports and TV station reports. Things he already knew, he added.

Tetrick always wanted to serve and “be with his guys,” Luke said.

The day after he was killed, Luke pulled out Tetrick’s personnel file. It felt thinner than a magazine, he recalled.

“The only other documents in his folder were awards, commendations and various other documents of courage and service,” he said. “By all metrics, a perfect firefighter.”


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