John Minich died a hero.
It's been 60 years since the Chicago firefighter lost his life after rescuing 12 people during a fire at the Hotel Argyle, on the 1000 block of West Argyle in Chicago.
On Oct. 25, 1952, a 29-year-old employee of the hotel confessed to setting fire to the building after a dispute with his girlfriend, who lived there, according to information posted on Illinois Fire Service Institute. The fire swept through the building, trapping several people.
Firefighter John Minich, who was in his mid-40s, managed to save 12 from the blaze, including a woman who was nearly nine months pregnant, before collapsing from smoke inhalation and heat exhaustion. He was pronounced dead at Ravenswood Hospital shortly afterward.
Minich found his final resting place in an unmarked grave in a Des Plaines cemetery.
The pregnant woman's daughter, Debbie McCann, was born less than two weeks after the fire. As Debbie got older and contemplated the magnitude of what Minich had done, she made it her mission to give the man who saved her mother's life—and her own—a proper headstone.
McCann offered to pay for a marker herself, according to an article in the Chicago Tribune, but in Elmhurst came forward and donated a black granite headstone. With the help of employees at All Saints Cemetery, Minich finally got the hero's treatment he deserved. The headstone was placed during a formal ceremony at the cemetery last Saturday, June 23.
McCann organized the event, which was attended by local firefighters from Mount Prospect, Des Plaines and Chicago.
"I'm just so happy that this moment is happening," McCann told the Tribune. "It's almost surreal."