WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – A former Sedgwick County firefighter and community volunteer, Richard Janne, passed away Wednesday from COVID-19, but only after leaving an impact on many families in the Wichita area.
Before retiring in 2009, Janne was a mentor to many at the department.
“He kind of took me under his wing and showed me the ropes of how to be a firefighter at Sedgwick County,” explained Carl Cox, the deputy chief of operations for SCFD and a former co-worker of Janne. “He got up every day with the same enthusiasm to come to the job when he started, and the day he left.”
Following his retirement from SCFD, Janne started the Wichita chapter of Pink Heals, supporting women with cancer. He drove a pink firetruck all over Kansas supporting the cause.
KSN spoke with the founder of Pink Heals, Dave Graybill, who released a statement that said, “Because of Pink Heals, I was able to meet the best people in the country. Most importantly, men who set the bar for what it means to be a man. Men with the strength of character, love of country, a strong commitment to their community, and a high moral code seemed to gravitate to the Pink Heals mission. Richard Janne was one of those men, and he will be dearly missed.”
KSN spoke with families that met Janne while their children were going through a battle with cancer. They say his personality provided a much-needed light during a very dark time.
“You know a special, generous, giving man, and it’s just a huge loss to the community. He touched a lot of lives and really made a difference,” Josh Bush, the father of Bella Bush who met Janne in 2018 while she was battling a brain tumor, explained.
Janne’s reach went outside Wichita, Bethany Marshall and her family in Hutchinson met Janne while they too were going through a difficult time.
“How we got to know Richard is through cancer,” said Marshall. “He had Nicki the pink fire truck there, and we got to sign it, and he asked Gabe to be his co-pilot in the front seat with him.”
After Marshall’s son Gabe died in 2018, Janne kept close with the family.
“He’s just truly going to be missed. He truly was a genuinely good guy, and the cancer community is going to miss him a lot,” Marshall added.
In 2011, KSN’s Stephanie Bergmann got a sneak peek of the truck before it was unveiled in the Riverfest parade. The truck was named after Richard’s wife Nicki Janne, who battled breast cancer and passed away in 2014.
A GoFundMe account has been set up to help his wife Gaye with expenses.