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Paramedic featured in Studs Terkel book

EDWARD J. REARDON 1943-2007

Eddie Reardon once told author Studs Terkel that when he died, "I'd like to be cremated and then shot out of a cannon during the '1812 Overture' when they set off the fireworks at Grant Park. That'd be a nice sendoff."

Mr. Reardon's observations on life and death during his 15 years as a Chicago Fire Department paramedic were captured by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Terkel in his 2001 book, Will the Circle Be Unbroken? Reflections on Death, Rebirth and Hunger for a Faith.

"Studs said Eddie was a remarkable guy because of his almost daily experience with death and the particular philosophical view he took afterwards," said movie and radio producer Tony Judge, a friend of both men.

Edward J. Reardon, 63, died of a heart attack Sunday at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center. A Vietnam veteran, he had been a Chicago paramedic for 15 years before assisting more than a dozen Chicago film productions.

Judge, producer of the "A Prairie Home Companion" radio show and the recent movie, knew Reardon from their Independence Park neighborhood and introduced him to Terkel, who wanted him for the book about death.

"Reardon is one of the most evocative and poetical voices in that book," Judge said. "He talks about the experiences of death as a paramedic. And he talks about his own existence. He talks about hope as that 'piece of cherry pie for today.' "

Treated Sean Connery

Judge went to Terkel's home Tuesday to tell him about their friend's death. He said the 95-year-old author said Mr. Reardon was "a remarkable guy" and talked about how the former paramedic could speak of hope because he "had seen life end in a million ways."

Mr. Reardon's life began in Chicago on Dec. 31, 1943. He attended public schools and was drafted for the Vietnam War, according to his wife, Geraldine.

"He was a door gunner on a helicopter, and he saw a lot of action," she said. "He got involved in the peace movement when he got back, and he ended up in San Francisco, where he was part of the scene. Then he came back to Chicago."

Mr. Reardon had several jobs and studied to be a printer. He and his wife met in 1967 when they were both ushers on WGN-TV's "Bozo's Circus." He then worked for several years placing the advertisements on WGN radio. Eventually, he joined the paramedic program at the Fire Department.

"He could connect with people faster and more completely than any other human being I ever saw," said another friend, David Murray. "If you were lying on the deck and Ed Reardon got in your face, everything got a lot better real fast, no matter how much trouble you were in.

"He saw some awful stuff," Murray said. "But he was very sad when he had to quit."

Mr. Reardon was forced to retire from the Fire Department in 1989 after a heart attack. He then landed a job providing first aid for movie companies shooting in Chicago, including "The Untouchables" with Sean Connery in 1987, "The Fugitive" in 1993, and the TV show "ER."

One exciting moment, according to his wife, was during the shooting of the "Untouchables" when a gun fired too closely to Connery and "particles went into his face, and Ed had to get them out and get him to a hospital."

"But after about 10 or 12 years of that, his heart got weaker and weaker," she said.

Survivors include two daughters, Melinda Bustamante and Maureen E. Reardon; two sons, Edward J. Jr., and Daniel M.; two grandchildren; two brothers, James and Richard; and a sister, Carol Reardon.

A service will be at 11 a.m. Friday at St. Viator Church, 4170 W. Addison. Burial will be private.

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