Pastor recalls ‘a good guy’ who quietly helped others

Michael Goodwin grew up as a member of St. Michael’s Lutheran Church, at Trenton Avenue and Cumberland Street in Kensington, and remained an active member long after moving to Parkwood.

He was president of the church council when the Rev. Marjorie Neal arrived as pastor nine years ago. Others assumed the role in recent years, but Goodwin held the position again at the time of his death.

Neal said she baptized Goodwin’s two grandchildren, and she’ll officiate at his funeral service on Thursday afternoon.

“Mike was a good guy,” she said in a telephone interview. “He always respected people. He’s going to be sorely missed.”

The pastor said Goodwin was fully involved in the church. “He was a man who loved his faith,” she said. “He had a warm spot for the older women who needed help at their house, and he would take them to the grocery store. And he did it quietly.”

Goodwin’s widow and two adult children are also members of the church, and Neal has spent time with them since learning of his death to offer comfort and to help prepare her homily. She also spoke to off-duty firefighters who came to the church on Monday to clean the interior of the church in advance of Thursday’s service.

The smallish church will not be able to accommodate all the mourners, and video screens will be set up outside to show the service.

Neal recalled a conversation with Goodwin, asking him why a veteran captain would be climbing on roofs and entering burning buildings.

“He said, ‘Pastor, I refuse to send my men into places I wouldn’t go myself,’ ” she recalled. “That’s the kind of man he was.”

Fellow firefighters at stations across the city had nothing but kind words to say about Goodwin.

The officers and firefighters at his home station, Engine 53, Ladder 27 in South Philadelphia, declined to speak because the cause of the fire was still being investigated. There’s a memorial tribute to Goodwin outside the station, complete with wreaths, flowers, an American flag, a candle, a toy fire truck and a sign that reads, “You’re Our Heroes.”

In the department, many of the firefighters either know each other or know of one another. They work together at some point in their careers, or see each other at fundraisers and retirement parties.

In visits to several firehouses — Engine 7, Ladder 10 at 3798 Kensington Ave.; Engine 6, Ladder 16 at Aramingo Avenue and Huntingdon Street; and Engine 33 at Richmond and Kirkbride streets — the guys praised Goodwin the man and firefighter. They didn’t want their names used out of respect to his colleagues at the South Philadelphia station and because of what they see as the fire administration’s willingness to punish anyone who speaks publicly without permission.

“He knew the job inside and out. He was the kind of guy you wanted on the roof to come in and get you,” one said.

Goodwin was always smiling and liked delivering one-liners and jokes, his coworkers said. He was passionate about his job and always eager to help colleagues.

“That was very encouraging for a young fireman to hear,” one said. “He was an automatic leader, one of those kinds of guys.”

“If you ever had questions,” another said, “he was willing to help you out.”

When children stop by the station for a tour or to see the apparatus, it’s often the young firefighters who are assigned the task of promoting fire safety. But Goodwin loved doing it himself.

“He loved being a fireman,” one said.

“His reputation speaks for itself. He was an outstanding fireman,” another said. ••

Reporter Tom Waring can be reached at 215–354–3034 or twaring@bsmphilly.com