Mount Greenwood post office to be named for fallen firefighter
By Steve Metsch
For 50 years, the squat red-brick building has sat at 111th Street and Homan Avenue in Chicago’s Mount Greenwood community.
It’s the local post office, officially known as the Mount Greenwood Station of the U.S. Post Office. Few, if any, pay much attention to the large letters facing 111th Street.
That may soon change.
To honor a longtime Chicago firefighter who lost his life on duty and to pay tribute to all first responders, U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-3rd) has introduced a bill in the House to rename the post office after Chicago fire Capt. Herbert Johnson.
Lipinski’s bill, co-sponsored by the other 17 members of Illinois’ House delegation, would designate the post office, 3349 W. 111th St., the “Captain Herbert Johnson Memorial Post Office Building.”
Johnson, 54, a 32-year veteran of the Chicago Fire Department and resident of the Morgan Park community, died Nov. 2 while fighting a house fire on the South Side.
“Capt. Herbie Johnson, like so many of our first responders, served heroically and selflessly. His passing and the outpouring from the community where he lived and served was tremendously moving and inspiring,” Lipinski said in a prepared statement. “My legislation to rename the Mount Greenwood Post Office makes sure that he will never be forgotten.”
Johnson was popular and well-liked throughout the Mount Greenwood, Beverly and Morgan Park communities on the Southwest Side.
Almost every year, he drove the fire truck down Western Avenue for the South Side Irish St. Patrick’s Day Parade. In 2007, he received the state’s highest award for firefighters, the Illinois Medal of Honor, for rescuing several children from a burning apartment.
Johnson died while battling flames in the attic of a two-story house in the Englewood community. He was survived by his wife, Susan, sons Thomas and Mickey and a daughter, Laurie. Services at St. Rita of Cascia Shrine Chapel drew thousands of mourners over two days.
The Johnson family, Laurie said, is floored by Lipinski’s proposal.
“Isn’t it incredible? It’s a federal building that will be named for him,” she said. “You can’t say ‘no’ to something like this.”
In a prepared statement, Susan Johnson said “this neighborhood was very important to Herbie — we have lived here for 27 years and raised our children here. Many of Herbie’s brothers and sisters live here. I hope that our future grandchildren will grow up here, too.
“Herbie was an ordinary man who loved doing his job. He had an extraordinary personality that will never be forgotten. Every day, when we get our mail from ‘Herbie’s post office,’ this will remind us that his spirit lives on and that he continues to be a hero.”
Tom Ryan, president of Chicago Firefighters Union Local 2, said, “naming the Mount Greenwood Post Office in Herbie’s honor will leave a lasting tribute to the legacy of a man who always put the happiness and safety of others ahead of his own.”
Mount Greenwood residents who were at the post office on a recent day agreed. Nancy Carey, wearing a fire department sweatshirt bought at a second-hand store, said naming the building for Johnson “would be a good cause.”
A Chicago police officer, who declined to be identified, called it a “great idea. I don’t think enough police and firemen get credit for what they do on the job. We only get recognized for the screw-ups.”
Laurie Johnson, whose first child is due in October, said she looks forward to one day telling her child that the neighborhood post office “is named for your grandfather.”
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