AUSTINTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – A sea of blue filled Austintown High School’s auditorium Saturday, as firefighters from all over the area came to pay their respects to Austintown Firefighter John Fritz.
The 48-year-old fireman died in his sleep while on duty on Monday.
Austintown Fire Chief Andy Frost said Fritz was a family man who loved his wife and five children. He also loved his brothers at the station and his co-workers at the Mahoning County Career and Technical Center, where he was a fire instructor.
“John [Fritz] didn’t just have one family, he had many families. By far his most precious were Karen, the girls, his parents,” Frost said.
He also said how Fritz was a model employee for everyone, especially young firefighters.
Fellow fireman Fred Marcum was next to speak, he remembered Fritz as very unique person.
“He always had some quirky antics or sayings. He loved to train and put in work, and loved to make some really off-the-wall tools. Some of which we use, some which we have yet to use,” Marcum said.
Fritz also liked archery, shooting and scuba diving, and was a black-belt in karate.
Fritz met Mark Leger while practicing martial arts. Leger said Fritz would often try to hit him quite hard, which was surprising since he was such a loving man.
“Our friendship may have started in the dojo, but over the span of almost 30 years we became much more than friends, we became family,” Leger said.
Fritz worked at the fire department for 26 years.
“You were a friend of a lifetime, and I’ll never forget you in my lifetime. I promise you that,” Leger said.