PFPD was Monfries’ job and his hobby

REGIONAL PAGE 2 or 3 BillMonfries1 for regional
 
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Bill Monfries, right, posed with his brother, Leonard, many years ago. Bill, a former PFPD fire chief, died Jan. 11.
 
William “Chief” Monfries didn’t have many hobbies.
He liked to fish, but that was an occasional outing during family vacations in Wisconsin.
Instead, he preferred to spend any free time at the Palos Fire Protection District. He spent more than 50 years at PFPD, starting as a volunteer and working his way up to being the first full-time fire chief.
Even after retiring, he’d still visit PFPD for morning coffee and talk with current firefighters – up until two or three months ago when his health turned. He died Jan. 11, 2017 at the age of 90.
“I think the department became not only his career for a period of time, but it was also his hobby,” said Steve Carr, a former PFPD fire chief (1991-2013) who started working with Bill in 1970. “His interest was in making the department work better and making sure the guys that worked there were safe and making sure the community was served best.”
Mr. Monfries leaves his wife of 66 years, Lois (Breternitz) Monfries; two daughters, Lorraine Monfries and Kathleen Knight; one son, Kenneth Monfries; six grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.
He was born April 1, 1926, in Chicago and grew up in Downers Grove. He joined the Marine Corps after graduating from Downers Grove North High School. A private first class, he was injured while at Okinawa in the East China Sea, and he received an honorable discharge and a Purple Heart.
After the war, he worked in sheet metal and met his future wife, Lois, in Chicago. They moved to Palos Park in 1954, and he joined the newly formed PFPD in 1956 as a volunteer fireman. The PFPD opened in March 1956 with 40 volunteer firefighters due to rising community concerns after 14-year-old Susan Firalyo died in a 1952 area house fire.
Despite no previous firefighting experience, his dedication helped him rise through the ranks while working full time in sheet metal. He was a paramedic, engineer, lieutenant, captain and assistant chief. He took over as the first full-time fire chief in 1986, retiring from sheet metal work. Even as an administrator, he actively participated in calls, assisted in maintaining vehicles and ran the department budget, among a multitude of duties.
“His commitment was unchallenged,” Carr said. “He was there to do what needed to be done. It didn’t matter in what capacity he was acting in. If there was a job that needed to be done he was there to do it. Bill wasn’t an overly boisterous individual. He listened to people. He was insightful and thoughtful.”
He retired as chief in 1991 following an on-call injury, but his days at the department were far from over. He spent 18 years as one of three fire commissioners who oversaw full-time hires, discipline and promotions.
“Bill was a terrific guy,” said James Graben, the PFPD fire chief since November 2015 who started working with Mr. Monfries in 1980. “He was very straightforward. You knew what to expect from the fire chief. Just a great guy who’d give you the tools to get your work done. He was a good leader.”
Visitation for Bill will be held from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday at Robert J. Sheehy & Sons Funeral Home, 9000 W. 151 St. in Orland Park. The funeral service will take place at 10 a.m. Saturday at The Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration, 12219 S. 86th Ave. in Palos Park. The procession will leave the funeral home and head to the church at 9 a.m.

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