CHICAGO -- Born 30 years apart, William J. Mann Jr. and Kirstin Reann Blockinger died together in the crash of an emergency medical helicopter in Aurora. On Monday, friends and family recalled one life marked by service and a much shorter one marked by courage.
"I hope I can be half the man my son was," William Mann Sr. said Monday after the funeral for his son William J. Mann Jr., 31, held at Divine Savior Catholic Church in Norridge.
The younger Mann was a nurse aboard the Air Angels helicopter that was transporting 14-month-old Kirstin of Leland, Ill., to Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago from Valley West Community Hospital in Sandwich. Shortly before midnight Wednesday, the aircraft clipped a guy wire on a radio tower near the Aurora Airport and crashed. Pilot Delbert Waugh, 69, of Carmel, Ind., and paramedic/firefighter Ronald Battiato, 41, of Peotone also were killed in the wreck.
Those gathered at Mann's funeral heard Rev. Michael Alcantara call him "the sunshine in the room" and "the glue" of his family. "Bill packed so much into his short life," Alcantara said.
Mann's mother, Arlette, said people in recent days have been thanking her for the work her son did, many saying he helped save their lives.
Before working on the medical helicopter, Mann was a police officer in Huntley and a paramedic in Norwood Park.
"Every one of his jobs was highlighted by service," close friend Nick Dallas said after the service. "He died doing what he loved."
During the eulogy to about 90 people in First United Methodist Church in DeKalb, Steve Ogletree wept several times when talking about his granddaughter Kirstin's courageous struggles during her short life. She had endured serious health problems for a year and had been suffering seizures since February, Ogletree said.
People wondered how Kirstin's mother, Brooke Blockinger, found strength to handle all the demands Kirstin's medical condition had placed on her, Ogletree said.
"Brooke got strength from Kirstin, and Kirstin got strength from Brooke," he said. Ogletree also told of his granddaughter's last night, when her 2-year-old brother, Collin, kissed her while paramedics prepared to take her to the hospital. Collin then turned to his mother and said, "Sissy not coming home," Ogletree recalled.He shared praise for the Air Angels through the words of his daughter, Brooke Blockinger. Several times since the crash, she has said the crew clearly were air angels, Ogletree said. They had delivered Kirstin to God, she told her father.