Fire Dept. Family Pays Respects to Captain, Former Union President

Fire Dept. Family Pays Respects to Captain, Former Union PresidentFire Dept. Family Pays Respects to Captain, Former Union PresidentFire Dept. Family Pays Respects to Captain, Former Union PresidentFire Dept. Family Pays Respects to Captain, Former Union PresidentFire Dept. Family Pays Respects to Captain, Former Union President

Photography by JAMIE NICHOLSON

1:34 pm | February 5, 2014


Friends, family and colleagues of Pasadena Fire Dept. Captain and former Firefighters Local 809 President John Tennant turned out at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium Wednesday to recall his life during a memorial celebration.

Born in Los Angeles on Aug. 18, 1948, Tennant passed away on Dec. 13 with his family at his side.

He began his career with the Pasadena Fire Department in 1972 and eventually rose to the rank of captain and was also elected president of Pasadena Firefighters Local 809.

Fire Chief Calvin Wells said Tennant always lived his professional life in interest of others, a practice that will leave behind a strong legacy.

“John Tennant took care of people, whether it was rendering assistance as a first responder or sending that crew home safely at the end of a shift or whether it was wearing his union hat,” Well said, adding: “Those who truly lose themselves in service to others are the most fortunate of mankind. John was fortunate, he was able to fulfill his calling.”

Tennant retired from firefighting in 2000 and was appointed California State Fire Marshal in the same year. He also served under State Sen. Cecil Greene by helping to draft legislation to strengthen state building codes.

It was his political experience that prompted his cousin, State Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, to reach out for advice when she made her 2008 bid.

“I immediately called John for his advice because I knew his incredible experience in politics, his insight, his strategic skill and I’m reminded many times by … State Treasurer Bill Lockyer about the political acumen that John had,” Skinner said during her remarks, which included a commendation presentation.

Several of Tennant’s family members took the stage at the civic auditorium, including his brother Mark Tennant, eight years his junior.

Mark Tennant said he and his brother both avidly played football in their youth and that his elder sibling’s work ethic in the sport symbolically carried on into his professional life.

“I was the first of many sparring partners that John had along the way,” he said, adding: “From those of you who worked him, he liked to push and he liked to push me a lot, too.”

Wells and the Pasadena Honor Guard presented Tennant’s children with a folded American flag.

Tennant’s daughter, Shawna, talked about her fathers personal side and remembered him as a man obsessed with fishing and one who was very handy with woodworking and making furniture.

Shawna said her dad might have been strict at times, but that it was through those experiences she learned to care for others and their time.

“Dad was always dad no matter how old I got,” she said. “I feel so fortunate that we grew up together and build a close relationship that also grew into a friendship.”

Tennant began his public safety career in 1972 with the Pasadena Fire Department. He promoted to the rank of Captain and served as the President of Pasadena Firefighters Local 809 for 15 years.

He retired in 2000 at which time he was appointed as the California State Fire Marshal. He was instrumental in securing post 9/11 terrorism-response training funds and strict enforcement of the State’s fire safety building codes.

Tennant worked as a special assistant to State Senator Cecil Greene, helping draft legislation to strengthen the State Building Codes. He was an active member of the City of Pasadena Police/Fire Retirement Board.