11/21/2012 03:51 pm ET

Walter Patmon Jr., Chicago Firefighter, Laid To Rest Day Before Thanksgiving

Described by colleagues as both "tough" and "a great guy," firemen, friends and family said their goodbyes to Walter Patmon Jr., the Chicago firefighter who died of a heart attack last week after responding to a fire in Beverly.

Hundreds gathered at Patmon's funeral on the eve of Thanksgiving, held at the Apostolic Church of God, according to ABC Chicago.

Lt. Arnett Cornell spoke at Patmon's wake, reports NBC Chicago. Cornell said Patmon "was one of those guys that everybody just seemed to love, sort of like a teddy bear or something. You just fell in love with him."

CBS Chicago said the 61-year-old became a rookie in the department at the age of 43, thus fulfilling his lifelong dream of becoming a firefighter.

"There's a hole in our city today. It's not complete," said Mayor Rahm Emanuel, speaking at the funeral. "Thank you for giving us Walter and letting him be a part of our lives."

An 18-year veteran of the department, Patmon served the past 11 years at the 95th Street firehouse where he had first reported shortness of breath before going into cardiac arrest. NBC spoke to several of Patmon's colleagues who expressed their grief and said their friend would be missed. Outside the firehouse, the flag flew at half-staff Wednesday.

Two years shy of retirement, according to ABC, Patmon leaves behind a wife and three young adult daughters.