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National Fallen Firefighters Foundation

Roll of Honor

Firefighter
Age: 48
Year of Death: 2016

John R. Fritz

John Richard Fritz, or “Fritz” as he was called by nearly everyone, was born to Richard and the late Diane Fritz in Austintown, Ohio, on March 20, 1968. He was inspired to become a firefighter as a child by watching his neighbor, Bob Rodkey, respond to fires as a part-timer. After Fritz joined the Austintown Fire Department as a part-time firefighter himself in 1992, they would race to see who reached Station 3 first after the tones went off. He was honored to become a career firefighter for Austintown in 2000. Fritz had found his calling among the brotherhood and embraced it enthusiastically. His spirit was infectious, and his love of pranking was legendary.

John was well-known as a man who would do anything for his friends and family. His daughter Ryley was born with spina bifida in 2000 and underwent many surgeries and treatments at Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital in Cleveland. To show his appreciation for the excellent care she received from her team of doctors and nurses there, he walked from Austintown’s No. 1 Fire Station to the hospital in Cleveland and back—70 miles each way—while wearing full turnout gear and air pack, not once, but twice, raising thousands of dollars for their Myelomeningocele Clinic.

Fritz was a creative problem solver, and if he felt a certain piece of equipment would make the job safer/faster/easier, he would make it himself if the department didn’t have it or couldn’t find it. This talent led to many side projects for him, and he leaves a legacy of wheelchair ramps, lacrosse goals, and fire training equipment, to name a few.

John had a passion for training that led him to become a fire instructor. He was one of the founding members of the AFD Honor Guard, as well as one of the founders of the Mahoning Valley chapter of FOOLS. Extremely humble, the one-time Firefighter of the Year shrugged off praise because it was all in a day’s work at a job he loved. He embodied the motto “Braithre Thar Gach Ni” or “Brotherhood Before All.”

It is an understatement to say that John is greatly missed by all his families—his wife, Karen; daughters, Ryley, Bailey, Halley, and Kassidey; his son, Owen; father, Dick; and sister, Jill; co-workers at Western Reserve Mechanical, where he was a member of Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 396; and of course, his brothers and sisters from the Austintown Fire Department.

The world is a much dimmer place without this one-in-a-million man who would have told you he was a dime a dozen. To know him truly was to love him.

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Karen Fritz
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