Hundreds of people turned out Monday to pay tribute to John Knighten, a firefighter, husband, father, friend, brother and Marine, whose life touched so many through the years.
Knighten had several loves in his life, among them firefighting and his wife Shawna, whom he met through the department. Spokane Fire Chief Bobby Williams related how Knighten would never trade off a shift on a holiday because it was his job to be there working with his fellow firefighters.
He loved the job so much that, on the day before his wedding to Shawna after three years of dating, John showed up late to his wedding rehearsal, in uniform, explaining that he only had about 10 minutes for the rehearsal as there was a statewide mobilization. His crew was waiting for him outside the rehearsal.
When he was first diagnosed with multiple myeloma, he asked his oncologist when he would be able to return to duty with the fire department. When told there was a chance he would never return, John proved the oncologist wrong and was able to return to work for a period of time.
"My job as a firefighter kind of defines me, it's part of what helped get me through," John Knighten said, in an interview at the time when he returned to duty at Fire Station 4.
Choking up, in tears, Williams called Knighten, "One of the most courageous and inspirational members we ever had to work with" who "set a shining example for all of us on how to deal with adversity."
"We will miss him. God bless you John," Williams said.
Phil Knighten, John's younger brother, talked about how John had always been there for him throughout the years: His first motorcycle crash, First car crash, first tequila shot, first speeding ticket in Tijuana. He related with pride on how the brothers got to wrestle together in high school, and how John was "the best baseball catcher in little league, the best wrestler in high school."
When their father died at a young age, Phil related how John stepped up to mentor his younger siblings.
"He fulfilled a fatherly role when our dad died young," Phil said.
Knighten started his firefighting career early with the Explorers while he was a senior in high school in Wenatchee.
"My mom was so relieved he was on fire truck putting out fires instead of starting them," Phil said.
After high school, John went on to serve with the United States Marine Corps and served for four years on active duty. He returned to Washington afterward and in 1994 he joined the Spokane Fire Department, where he remained for the last 19 years until his passing on June 30 after a three-year battle with multiple myeloma.
"I love you John. We love you John. Don't forget," Phil Knighten said.
Knighten's final call culminated with the fire bell being tolled three times, his fellow firefighters rendering a salute, the bell's tolling signaling Spokane Firefighter John Knighten had finished his duty, a job well done.
"Station 4 to John Knighten.
Station 4 to John Knighten.
Station 4 to John Knighten this is your last call."