Scores Give Philly Captain Final Salute; Pastor Calls for Contract



IT WAS QUIET, except for the breeze that ruffled the honor guard's flags, as Elizabeth Goodwin sat in a wheelchair outside St. Michael's Lutheran Church, waiting for her son.

After a few moments, red-eyed mourners began pouring out of the Kensington church in droves.

The quiet was finally interrupted by the mournful sounds of bagpipes as Philadelphia fire Capt. Michael Goodwin's flag-draped casket was moved carefully down the sidewalk.

Elizabeth Goodwin lowered her head and sobbed as her son's coffin slowly passed by.

Her tears were but a few that were shed Thursday as hundreds of firefighters, family members and friends came together to remember Goodwin, 53, the commander of South Philly's Ladder 27 who died battling a blaze Saturday in Queen Village.

Some struggled to put their sadness into words, while others simply gazed at snapshots of Goodwinon a large screen that was perched above the cobblestones on Trenton Avenue, across the street from St. Michael's.

"There's no words to describe this loss," said Jackie Sarge, 64, a member of St. Michael's church council, which Goodwin served on as president. "He had a wonderful personality, and he did a lot for the church, and for this neighborhood. He did a lot of work behind the scenes that no one ever saw."

Goodwin met and married his wife, Kelly, at St. Michael's. His children, Michael Jr. and Dorothy, were baptized there, as well as his two grandchildren.

"I think we're all kind of numb," said parishioner Nicole Landis, 40. "He had a big presence, but he was just the sweetest, sweetest man."

Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers and Mayor Nutter described Goodwin as a dedicated husband and father who was also willing to lay his life on the line to protect others.

"He always spoke his mind. He wouldn't bite his tongue," Firefighter Kent Barnwell said with a small smile.

Barnwell worked with Goodwin in the early 1990s at North Philly's Engine 45. "It's a hard thing, a hard pill to swallow, for everyone who knew him," he said.

Goodwin's outspoken nature was invoked by the Rev. Marjorie Neal, St. Michael's pastor, when she called on Mayor Nutter during her funeral remarks to "do whatever is necessary to provide a contract for our firefighters."

The reference to the city's long-running contractual battle with the firefighters union led the hundreds of firefighters inside and outside the church to erupt in applause.

Nutter said in an emailed statement later in the day: "I have nothing to say about a comment that was so inappropriate at the funeral of our hero, Capt. Michael Goodwin. We love him and we respect him and we will badly miss him."

Neal said she tried to encourage Goodwin, a 29-year veteran, to avoid the more dangerous aspects of his job, given his rank. She said he argued that he couldn't ask his men to do anything that he wasn't willing to.

"This simple, humble man gave his life," Neal said, "and we will forever be changed for knowing him."

Following the funeral, Goodwin was laid to rest at Hillside Cemetery in Roslyn.

On Twitter: @dgambacorta


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