Matriarch of Firefighter Family Dies in House Fire

68-year-old wife, mother, grandmother of firefighters couldn't beat the blaze

The frail matriarch of a family of firefighters simply wasn't able to escape from her burning home.

Jackie Hameister, 68, died Saturday in her Crete home where she and her fire captain husband had raised their four kids, two of whom became firefighters as well.

Hameister had fought cancer, and had a hard time walking and hearing, said her son Phil Hameister, Crete's superintendent of public works and a captain in the Crete Fire Department.

"That took quite a bit out of her," he said.

She was alone in the home after having lunch with her husband of 50 years, a retired captain and 47-year veteran of the fire department.

After lunch, her husband, Wayne Hameister, went to work at a nearby store he co-owns.

"The next call he got, there were flames coming out of the house," Phil Hameister said.

When firefighters got the call about 2:30 p.m. Saturday, they knew it was the home of one of their own and knew of Jackie Hameister's condition, Crete Fire Chief Lyle Bachert said.

"I knew that, if in fact there was a fire there, we had an invalid person living in the house and our main focus is on rescue," Bachert said.

But the front of the single-story home was completely engulfed in flames when fire crews pulled up.

"There was a lot of fire there, especially in the room where she was," Bachert said. "I made two attempts to go inside through a kitchen door but the heat and smoke was too intense. I couldn't make it."

Jackie Hameister was found in a room where she liked to sit and look out the window, Bachert said. She was positively identified using dental and medical records, according to the Will County Coroner's office.

Jackie Hameister's life and home were fought for by people in a department she had deep ties to.

In addition to her husband and son, Jackie Hameister's grandson Michael is a cadet for the village's fire department. Another son also is a firefighter, though not in Crete.

"Most of us have known her for a number of years, and it's just unfortunate," Bachert said.

And for her family, it's even worse.

"I've been in buildings where people have perished and it's never good, but this has taken a toll on the whole family," Phil Hameister said. "It's a lot different when you're dealing with a family member. It's a whole different ball game."

The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

Copyright CHIST - SunTimes
Contact Us