Gerald Heinen attempted to rescue Kathryn Y. Zweifel from burning, Ridott, Illinois, August 29, 1988. Mrs. Zweifel, 79, was inside the car she had been driving after a highway accident in which the car broke into flame. Having witnessed the accident, Heinen, 48, off-duty firefighter, immediately went to the burning car and, despite growing flames on the front of the car and in its interior, crawled through the window of the front passenger door to remove Mrs. Zweifel. After crawling backward out of the car for air, Heinen re-entered, seized Mrs. Zweifel, and pulled her from the car moments before it was engulfed by flames. Heinen required hospital treatment for a second-degree burn to his right hand, and he recovered. Mrs. Zweifel died of her injuries.
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Gerald Heinen, 69, a lifelong resident of Rockford, Ill., died on July 24, 2009, in his home after a fight with cancer. Heinen was born on July 10, 1940, in Rockford, the son of Edward and Susie (Pann) Heinen. He graduated from St. Thomas High School.
Heinen retired from the Rockford Fire Department after 25 years of service, then worked for Carquest for several years. Heinen received the Carnegie Medal in 1990 and also received the Director’s Award from Illinois State Police Director Jeremy Margolis.
Heinen was a member of City of Rockford Firefighters Local 413 and V.F.W. Post 9759. He enjoyed the outdoors, hunting, fishing, and time spent at his cabin on the Kilbuck Creek in Monroe Center, Ill.
(Edited from an obituary on the website for the Fitzgerald Funeral Home and Crematory in Rockford.)