Rochester, NY, USA
LT, West Webster Fire Department
12/24/2012, West Webster, NY
A lieutenant firefighter, Michael Chiapperini was a hardworking, dedicated, and courageous leader. He passed away when he was 43 years old.
Chip was a volunteer firefighter at the West Webster Fire Department for over 25 years. He was the Past Chief the West Webster Fire Department. In addition, he was an advisor for its Fire Explorer Post. He served for 19 years as a Police Officer with the Webster Police Department and was promoted to the ranks of Dispatcher, Police Officer, Investigator, Sergeant and Lieutenant.
On December 24, 2012, Chiapperini was shot in the aftermath of a house fire on Lake Road. He passed away on line next to his good friend, Tomasz Kaczowka. Chiapperini died doing and fighting for what he loved. He committed his life to public service for the Town of Webster. He touched so many lives and will be greatly missed by family, friends and his community.
More than 5,000 mourners, including firefighters from Niagara to Nassau County, filled in the Webster Schroeder High School for the funeral of Lt. and past Chief Michael Chiapperini.
Lt. Chiapperini is one of the two West Webster firefighters who died when a gunman opened fire on crews responding to a Christmas Eve fire at the gunman’s home. Chiapperini also served on the force of the Webster Police Department. They formed a processional that stretched on as far as the eye could see, from the front door of the high school and out to the road, where two fire trucks flew an enormous American flag from their ladders.
His brothers from the West Webster Fire Department escorted his casket into the auditorium at the school. Those who spoke at the service had nothing but positive and heartwarming things to say about the beloved firefighter. One speaker started off by saying, “Once again has death taken its toll from our ranks. To our brother Michael, who has answered the last roll call, we are assembled here today to pay tribute to his memory, which has been so well-earned.”
Amid the town’s grief, there is determination, not to let the heinous actions of a single gunman overpower the love of many. Chiapperini will be remembered as the consummate public servant, a courageous leader, and a father-figure to the firefighters who served under him.
West Webster Fire District Chief James Deisenroth said, “He was a person everyone knew they can go to for help, advice, or instructions.” Turning to the casket to address his longtime mentor, Deisenroth continued, “You give me courage and confidence to handle anything. You give us all strength, to know that we can take any challenge as a group.”
Even in death, Chiapperini’s presence was felt overwhelmingly, by his fellow police officers and firefighters.
Sgt. Dennis Kohlmeier, one of Chiapperini’s friends and a fellow police officer and firefighter, began to cry even before he spoke. First Webster Police Chief Gerald Pickering came to his side to comfort him, followed by a corps of Webster police officers and firefighters.
“He was the kind of friend that was always available for me,” Kohlmeier said quietly, wiping away tears. “If I needed to talk, he was a speed-dial away. And nearly every time, he answered.”
Said Chief Pickering, “I am reminded of a line that Dr. Suess once wrote. ‘Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it has happened.'” Pickering, too, was emotional as he concluded his speech.
“Lt. Michael Chiapperini, Car 941, you are 10-7. Your work is done here. Rest in peace, my friend.”