When Chicago Fire Department Lt. Jan Tchoryk died on the job last week, Bill McFarlane went straight to social media to see the lieutenant’s always positive posts.
“He liked to post on Facebook and finished most of his posts with ‘be positive,’” McFarlane, the fire department’s chaplain, said at Tchoryk’s funeral Thursday.
“When looking at his Facebook, it was easy seeing his life was all about service,” he said.
Tchoryk, 55, died of a heart attack April 5 while battling an extra-alarm blaze in a Gold Coast high-rise building — one day after fellow firefighter Jermaine Pelt died in a separate fire.
Tchoryk was a Navy veteran who served in Desert Storm. He was then hired by CFD and rose the ranks over a 26-year career. His son, Dylan, is a Chicago police officer.
Thursday morning, a procession carrying Tchoryk’s body in a flag-draped casket atop a fire engine arrived at St. Joseph Ukrainian Church, 5000 N. Cumberland Ave.,
Bagpipers and drummers followed closely behind Tchoryk’s casket as it was lowered from the fire engine and carried into the church. Scores of firefighters stood nearby at attention.
Tchoryk was an outdoorsman who loved to fish and smoke cigars, McFarlane said. He also had an affinity for sipping Johnny Walker whiskey and took pride in his Ukrainian heritage.
CFD Commissioner Annette Nance-Holt said his colleagues called him “John.”
“John joined us first responders on countless calls across the state to help citizens and visitors of this great city,” Nance-Holt said from the pulpit.
“He continued that cause until the end, running into a high-rise to be of service that morning.”
She then asked the mourners gathered to give a round of applause.
Tchoryk joined the CFD in 1997 and was assigned to Engine 91. He was later promoted to lieutenant/EMT at Tower Ladder 10, at Division and Larrabee.
That’s where he met colleague Richard Florzcak, lieutenant of Engine 4.
“When I got to the firehouse about a year ago, I couldn’t ask for a better partner,” Florzcak said.
They talked about family life and both helped their colleagues study for the engineer test, he said.
“We loved your laughter more than anything,” Florzcak said.
Firefighter James Davis agreed.
“The first day I met Jan, he greeted me with a handshake, a wide smile and a joke that only one of us laughed at,” Davis said to laughter in the church.
“You can imagine how that played out. He would tell a joke, explain the joke, go through different characters in the joke, and even give voices of the characters.”
“If you thought it was funny, you’d be there another five minutes to hear another funny joke,” he said.
Edward Kelly, president of the International Association of Fire Fighters, presented its highest award, the Martin E. Pierce Medal of Valor, to Tchoryk’s son, Dylan.
Also attending were Tchoryk’s wife, Natalia Kavkun; his mother, Olga; two daughters, Olivia and Grace; and his stepdaughter, Olena Kavkun.
Officials at the church included Chicago first lady Amy Eshleman, Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson and Alderpersons Nicholas Sposato (38th) and Ed Burke (14th).
Interment was at St. Nicholas Ukrainian Cemetery, 8851 W. Higgins Ave.
The day before Tchoryk died, firefighter Pelt died working to put out a house fire in West Pullman. Pelt’s funeral is scheduled for Friday.
“This is one of the worst weeks of our lives. We’ve never seen anything like this,” Nance-Holt said Thursday.