Firefighters, family and fiends gathered Friday to remember a 47-year-old Los Angeles County firefighter and father of two killed as he battled a house fire.
The memorial service for Jonathan Flagler is being held at Cottonwood Church in Los Alamitos, where his widow told nearly a thousand mourners that she's lost her "best friend." A long line of firefighting colleagues saluted as the procession for Flagler passed under the U.S. flag suspended between two fire trucks on its way to the church.
"We'll always remember the day we lost our brother,'' department Chaplain Vince Roldan told mourners. "Jon was a true hero. And he lost his life in the line of duty upholding his oath to protect the lives and property of the community he served. There is a scripture in the gospel of John that says `Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.'
"That's the heart of a firefighter and it is also why we are all hurting so much right now.''
Jenny Flagler, flanked by her two sons, also spoke to the gathering.
"Thank you for coming today to show your love for my husband,'' she said. "John touched so many people's lives, as is evident in the amount of people here showing their love for him. I do not have to explain how John was to anyone here today. His smile lit up a room; his laugh was infectious. It only took meeting him once to remember him forever.
"He is and always will be my best friend; and there will continually be a hole in my heart that will never fully heal. John was my soul mate, plain and simple. It takes some people decades to find the person they're meant to be with. It takes some several tries to find them, and some never do. I am one of the lucky few that found him on the first try. All it took was one date, and I knew he was the man I was meant to spend the rest of my life with.''
Flagler is survived by his wife Jenny and their teenage sons, Brody and Jack. On Thursday, his family was presented with a flag at a solemn flag ceremony in Vernon at the station where Flagler began his career in 2002. The ceremony was at county Fire Station 13, which was previously known as Vernon Fire Department Station 1 before the county took over that city's agency in 2020.
The station will be renamed the Jonathan Flagler Memorial Training Center.
At Friday's service, Jenny Flagler remembered that it didn't take long after they met for her to realize Jonathan Flagler was the person with whom she wanted to spend the rest of her life.
"I didn't get the rest of my life, but I got the rest of his," Jenny Flagler said Friday. "Our time together may have been cut short, but the happiness we shared together will last a lifetime.
"I feel truly blessed by God to have had him by my side for 22 years... I will miss John until the day we meet again in Heaven, and so will our boys. But we will never feel alone, because John has left behind a love that cannot be broken.''
Another speaker Friday was interim county Fire Chief Anthony Marrone.
"These past two weeks have been heartbreaking for all of us,'' Marrone said. "When I first got the call -- a call that no fire chief ever wants to get -- that a firefighter has possibly lost his life in the line of duty, I remember heading straight to the hospital, early that morning. I was hoping and praying that everything would be OK; and it was not.
"I also remember feeling the weight of his loss, and the shadow it cast on his brothers and sisters who worked closely with him at Fire Station 83 and Battalion 14 and at his old Vernon Fire Department.
"As a chief, I am grateful that we lead an organization of men and women who go out every shift to do a dangerous job. They do it without hesitation or regard for their own personal safety; and they do it with commitment and courage... His watch ended, but his bravery never wavered. He is greatly missed by all of us, and he will never be forgotten.''
His father described Flagler as a constant jokester.
"To known him was to love him," he said.
Flagler was overcome by smoke and flames as helped battle a house fire early Jan. 6 in Rancho Palos Verdes. Colleagues pulled him from the fire, but he later died at a hospital.
Flagler was most recently assigned to county Fire Station 83. A flag that flew over that station was raised at Station 13 during Thursday's ceremony, then later lowered, formally folded and presented to Flagler's family.
“We'll always remember the day we lost our brother,'' county Fire Department Chaplain Vince Roldan said during the ceremony. “Jon was a true hero. And he lost his life in the line of duty upholding his oath to protect the lives and property of the community he served. There is a scripture in the gospel of John that says `Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.' That's the heart of a firefighter and it is also why we are all hurting so much right now.
“Jon Flagler had that heart. He lived a selfless life, always putting the people in his life that he loved first. Jon never did anything halfway. He gave his all in everything -- as a husband, father, friend and as a firefighter. And that is why he will be missed but will never be forgotten.''