James G. Franklin was what relatives describe as his family's knight in shining armor.

He was always visiting his two sisters, and his two young nieces looked forward to having him around because he often would arrive with gifts and a wonderful sense of humor that made him the life of any party, they said.

Other words come to mind when Christine Franklin remembers her older brother: stunningly handsome, generous, kind and a lover of animals. "He gave me once a statue of a knight in shining armor," she said. "I told him I didn't need one, I had him."

James Franklin, 62, of Levittown, died Friday at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park. He was diagnosed with leukemia about two weeks ago and was being treated with chemotherapy.

Franklin, a retired U.S. Customs inspector, loved animals. In 1968, he ran up five flights of stairs into his old fraternity house at Columbia University amid a fire, Christine said, "to save hamsters and several cats."

His pets were his children, said Christine, 58, of Malverne. He once adopted a blind pit bull named Joe. "He loved all animals," she said.

Franklin was a regular at the Cedar Creek dog park in Seaford and brought treats for all the canines. Christine said going to the park was the highlight of her brother's day. "Everybody there knew him," she said.

He also was the peacekeeper in the family. If there was a family rift, he'd get both sides to talk to each other.

Sister Mary Franklin-Herlihy of Valley Stream said her daughters Madeline, 17, and Julie, 13, looked forward to spending time with their uncle.

"He was just the most amazing guy. He was the most wonderful person and he cared so much about people," said Julie.

Viewing is Monday from 2 to 5 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. at Krauss Funeral Home, Franklin Square. Mass is 9:30 a.m. Tuesday at St. Catherine of Sienna Catholic Church, Franklin Square.

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