Hundreds of Chicago firefighters gathered Monday at St. Thecla Church to honor their fallen brother, Thomas Flahive.
Lt. Flahive, 58, died last week from a West Nile Virus infection. He had been with the department since November 1989.
"It's exceptionally important," said Lt. Paul Ryder. "We're one big family ... gotta support one another."
"I've known Tom for long time," said another firefighter. "Great guy. We're here to support his family. It's what we do."
Flahive leaves behind a wife and three adult sons. Those who knew him best say he was soft-spoken, with a heart of gold.
"He's a guy with a lot of experience, guy with a big heart," Ryder said. "One of his crew told me he'd thank everybody coming off his shift for doing the job and being safe. That's important."
In the eulogy, Chicago Fire Department Chaplain Thomas Mulcrone said, "Tom Flahive may not have been the most politically correct person. Not even close. But if he liked you, he loved you."
Flahive was vacationing in Wisconsin two weeks ago when he was bitten on the neck by a mosquito. He got back and checked into the hospital with flu-like symptoms and his condition only worsened.
"How is it that a mosquito can do this?" Mulcrone asked the congregation. "There are no answers. This is where and when we need faith."
Flahive's family said they'll donate parts of his body to science hoping researchers can learn more about the virus.