Mourners at a funeral in Edmonton heard today how a man died trying vainly to save his five-year-old daughter who was hiding in a closet during an apartment fire.

Don Kohlman, 46, was hailed a hero at a funeral held for him and his daughter Jacqueline at St. Angela Merici Parish in northwest Edmonton.

During the service mourners were told that Kohlman had cerebral palsy, but had an eternal sense of optimism — that he was a happy person despite numerous surgeries, rehabilitation and physical challenges.

His daughter, Jacqueline loved to sing and dance and was looking forward to starting kindergarten in the fall.

Both loved to talk, leading to family members to dub Jacqueline as Yackie Jackie, mourners heard.

They died on Father's Day morning when a fire broke out in their eighth-floor Oliver-area apartment.

Ron's wife and Jacqueline's mother Julie had left the apartment for a short time after breakfast. When she returned, the fire was raging.

Funeral goers heard that during the fire Kohlman tried rescuing his daughter, who was hiding from the flames in a closet. During the eulogy, mourners were told that, in the end, neither was alone at the time of their deaths, but had each other.

Julie survived along with the couple's 14-year-old son Robin, who was also declared a hero for calling 911 and knocking on many doors in the apartment building before getting himself to safety.

Don and Julie met when she became his health aide in 1998. They were married in 1999. Last year the family moved from a smaller apartment to the larger three-room suite.  

A total of five tenants were sent to hospital after the fire broke out on June 16th at Oak Tower at 117th Street and 102nd Avenue.

While the fire was contained to one apartment, the extreme heat of the fire damaged numerous suites on the eighth and ninth storeys.

The cause of  the fire has not been released.

With files from CBC's John Archer