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Ex-fire chief G. Michael Godfrey dies

Ex-Chief G. Michael Godfrey of the South Floral

Ex-Chief G. Michael Godfrey of the South Floral Park Fire Department. Ex-Chief Godfrey was a volunteer firefighter for over 35 years, 7 of those years he served as chief. After a lengthy illness, Ex-Chief Godfrey passed on July 12,2012. Credit: Handout

G. Michael Godfrey, a former chief of the South Floral Park Fire Department and a trailblazer for black firefighters on Long Island, has died. He was 78.

Godfrey, a member of the South Floral Park department for more than 35 years and chief for seven, was one of the first black men to serve in a position of authority for numerous Long Island and New York State firefighter associations, his colleagues and family said. He succumbed to heart disease on Thursday.

Godfrey served on the Firemen's Association of the State of New York board of directors and spent time as president of the Nassau County Association of Fire Chiefs and the Nassau County Firemen's Association. He was chairman of the Nassau County Fire Commission.

Mary Godfrey-Rickards, one of his three daughters, said her father's life was about a passion for service.

"He believed that you should help your neighbor and he believed that you should be committed to one another," Godfrey-Rickards said. "He thought it was very important to give back."

Godfrey was born in Baltimore and moved to New York, where he lived as a young adult in Brooklyn and the Bronx. He and his family moved to Long Island about 45 years ago, his daughter said.

He worked for Con Edison for more than 20 years, including as a manager in the company's gas operations, Godfrey-Rickards said.

Godfrey was the first black person on the state Firemen's Association board, an association spokesman said. His pioneering volunteerism, and long tenure of service with the Floral Park department, set a standard for a generation of firefighters, said Eugene I. Foster, the department's current chief.

"He was one of my mentors, to bring me into South Floral Park and to be who I am at this point," Foster said.

Godfrey also is survived by his wife, Barbara Godfrey of South Floral Park, and daughters Michele Godfrey of Jacksonville, Fla., and Deborah Godfrey of Raleigh, N.C.

Godfrey's funeral is at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday at St. Vincent de Paul Roman Catholic Church, 1500 De Paul St. in Elmont. Burial will follow at Calverton National Cemetery on Princeton Boulevard in Calverton.

The family asks that well-wishers donate money to the Firemen's Association of the State of New York's Firemen's Home fund or scholarship fund.

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