NAVY PIER — Hundreds of firefighters and first responders lined up in the cold Monday to pay their respects to Andrew “Drew” Price, who died on the job last week.
Friends, family and colleagues remembered Price, 39, for his warm demeanor, punctuated by his signature “hang loose” hand sign and a holler of “Mahalo,” a Hawaiian expression of gratitude Price picked up during a solo trip to the state, they said.
Text messages from Price and photos with him were never without the “hang loose” hand sign, firefighters said — holding it up again as they said a final goodbye.
“His ‘Mahalo’ was being grateful that he was with you, grateful being in the moment, grateful for all these little things that happen in life that most of us take for granted,” Battalion Chief Pat Gallagher said. “What a life to live, where you can actually recognize and appreciate, and be grateful for, everything that’s happening at the moment it happens.”
Price was responding to an early-morning blaze at a Lincoln Park restaurant last week when he took a ladder up to the roof to open holes for ventilation, officials previously said.
Price — the driver and senior member of his fire truck — pointed at the sunrise, shouted “Mahalo” and told a fellow first responder it was time to get to work, firefighter John Haring said.
Price fell through the light shaft and was trapped in the building’s basement, officials said. Members of his truck broke through a wall to rescue him, but Price died later that morning at a nearby hospital.
Price is the fourth firefighter killed on duty this year, the deadliest year for the department in 25 years.
“Drew, you were the best driver I ever had,” Haring said. “There’s a generation of kids in Lincoln Park right now who give his hand sign to Truck 44 all the time.”
Fire Commissioner Annette Nance-Holt, who knew Price, called him “a dynamic person” who took pride in staying in tip-top shape, had a knack for acrobatic balancing moves and wielded a life force that “brought people together,” she said at the funeral.
Price joined the fire department in 2009 and was an instructor at the Fire Academy in 2014, helping hundreds of cadets, Nance-Holt said.
Price’s wife and family joined firefighters during hours-long proceedings that included private and public visitations at Navy Pier Monday morning.
“In all the years on this job, this was probably one of the longest walk-throughs that I’ve seen,” Nance-Holt said. “Rest easy, my brother. We’ll miss you, but we’re going to go on. We’re CFD strong, thank you.”
Firefighters assigned to Price’s engine addressed the crowd with stories of his spirit and selflessness, struggling to speak of him in the past tense.
Dustin “Dusty” Jeffers said he went from one of Price’s cadets to one of his best friends. Price once offered him a ride home from the academy. Price would wait around at Starbucks in hopes Jeffers would text him back an order. He brought a lawn chair and a sign to the Chicago Marathon when Jeffers ran it last month, Jeffers said.
Price delivered a matching Christmas plant from Costco to Jeffers’ family the day before the deadly fire last week. It was the last time Jeffers saw Price, he said.
“Every time you saw him, whether you spent five minutes, five hours, or all day, he would send you a text as soon as he got in the car, about how great it was to see you,” Jeffers said.
Price was a dog dad and the “ultimate jokester,” Jeffers said. On overnight shifts he’d hide under fellow firefighters’ beds in hopes of dishing out a good scare. At the department’s physical fitness challenge every October, Price showed up “fully dressed” for Halloween, most recently as the Joker, Nance-Holt said.
Price was a leading defensive back for the department’s football team, even though he never played football before, his former coach, Gallagher said. He rarely missed practice and always jumped at the chance to play special teams, Gallagher said.
Price continued to do the grunt work at the firehouse even as he grew into its senior member, Gallagher said.
“He listened to the senior guys and genuinely took interest in how to do things. You never had to ask him if he did his morning checks, if he had his uniform, if he started the saws, washed the rig or did the inventory,” Gallagher said. “He didn’t need to be reminded. He did it.”
Firefighter Carlos Gonzales said he got a text from Price after his first shift — pinging his phone before he had even reached his car. The message was capped with Price’s signature “hang loose” sign.
“He said if I ever had a question about anything, ‘I got you.’ And if he didn’t know the answer, ‘We’ll figure it out together.'” Gonzales said. “He took the time to help you … Until we meet again, Mahalo.”
Price’s brother, Jordan Price, closed out the service thanking the city, the department and the community for “rallying behind” his brother’s memory.
Andrew Price took the “upmost pride” in working for the fire department, Jordan Price said.
“Drew held a unique ability to make everyone near him feel special. He had an unrelenting and unselfish concern for the safety and well-being of others,” Jordan Price said. “He was so full of life, positivity and a wild sense of adventure, it was hard to imagine anything or anyone bringing him down.”
More photos from Price’s service below:
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