Saying goodbye to Capt. Goodwin

Mike Good­win em­bod­ied the mod­ern-day good shep­herd, a ser­vant-lead­er, jeop­ard­iz­ing his own wel­fare for the be­ne­fit of his flock, ac­cord­ing to the Rev. Ma­jor­ie J. Neal, pas­tor of St. Mi­chael’s Evan­gel­ic­al Luther­an Church.

“As a faith­ful ser­vant, Mike was will­ing to lay his life down, and he did,” Neal said dur­ing the fu­ner­al ser­vice April 11 for Good­win, the Phil­adelphia Fire De­part­ment cap­tain who was killed while fight­ing a South Philly fab­ric store blaze.

Hun­dreds of fire­fight­ers from throughout the tri-state re­gion and across the na­tion joined Good­win’s re­l­at­ives and friends, along with May­or Mi­chael Nut­ter and many oth­er city of­fi­cials, at the Kens­ing­ton church to cel­eb­rate the life of the man known for his un­waver­ing ded­ic­a­tion to fam­ily, the fire de­part­ment and God.

The un­der­stated red brick house of wor­ship at Trenton Av­en­ue and Cum­ber­land Street wasn’t large enough to con­tain the as­sembly, so mourn­ers lined the sur­round­ing streets, sa­lut­ing the fire truck that car­ried Good­win’s Amer­ic­an flag-draped cas­ket to the ser­vice. Many of those who re­mained out­side the church watched the ser­vice on a large video screen.

Good­win, 53, a Park­wood res­id­ent and mar­ried fath­er of two, had al­most 30 years of ser­vice in the de­part­ment and was pres­id­ent of the church coun­cil at St. Mi­chael’s. Good­win is sur­vived by his wife, Kelly; adult daugh­ter, Dorothy Dunn; adult son, Mi­chael Jr.; moth­er Eliza­beth; three sib­lings; two grand­chil­dren and nu­mer­ous oth­er re­l­at­ives.

“Every Sunday when he wasn’t at work, he was here at church, wor­ship­ping and serving,” Neal said in her in­spir­a­tion­al and poignant homily. “[Good­win] was truly a ser­vant-lead­er, fol­low­ing the ex­ample of the Lord.”

“Mike was coun­cil pres­id­ent, so he was in­volved in all of it,” St. Mi­chael’s mem­ber Bob Crane said, not­ing the church’s nu­mer­ous com­munity out­reach ef­forts, in­clud­ing a food bank and after-school pro­gram for kids. “I don’t know how we’re go­ing to make it without him.”

As the cap­tain of Lad­der 27, Good­win com­manded his com­pany from the front. On the even­ing of April 6, he and oth­er fire­fight­ers climbed to the third-story roof of the burn­ing and va­cated Jack B. Fab­rics store at 748 S. Fourth St. try­ing to con­tain the flames. But the roof col­lapsed and Good­win fell in­to the in­ferno. Fire­fight­er An­drew Go­dlewski suffered burns to his hand try­ing un­suc­cess­fully to pull Good­win to safety. Go­dlewski at­ten­ded the fu­ner­al ser­vices with his hand band­aged.

“As a cap­tain, you are in charge, but you spend your time with the group. … If you’re a good of­ficer, you’re go­ing to be with your men,” said Fire­fight­er Kent Barn­well, who worked along­side Good­win in the early 1990s at Lad­der 14 in the city’s Straw­berry Man­sion sec­tion.

Good­win even­tu­ally left Lad­der 14 upon his pro­mo­tion to lieu­ten­ant. He would later be­come cap­tain and will be pro­moted again to bat­talion chief posthum­ously in keep­ing with fire de­part­ment policy. But even as a rank-and-file fire­fight­er, he was an un­of­fi­cial lead­er, a jokester who would keep every­one up­beat.

“He was al­ways a fun guy to work with,” said Fire­fight­er Richard Port­er, who still works at Lad­der 14. “It was a great time in the fire de­part­ment. We had a great group of guys who got to­geth­er and stayed to­geth­er. We so­cial­ized off the job and it was like a fam­ily.”

Good­win had a ser­i­ous side too, and nev­er hes­it­ated to speak his mind when he felt that something was amiss.

“He would nev­er bite his tongue, [but] he did it in a re­spect­ful way,” Port­er said.

Per­haps tak­ing her cue from Good­win, Neal in the midst of her ser­mon, called upon Nut­ter to end the city’s four-year con­tract dis­pute with its fire­fight­ers uni­on. Mourn­ers in­side and out­side the church re­spon­ded with a 30-second round of ap­plause.

Good­win served sev­er­al years in the U.S. Navy after gradu­at­ing from Mast­baum Tech, but he seemed destined to be­come a fire­fight­er from a young age. A long­time church mem­ber told Neal how curi­os­ity got the best of a 6-year-old Good­win and he in­ten­tion­ally tripped a street-corner fire alarm in his old neigh­bor­hood, just to see what would hap­pen.

Fire trucks rushed to the scene as Good­win fled and thought he had eluded trouble. But then word got back to his grand­fath­er that Good­win was re­spons­ible for the false alarm.

“Back in those days, there were little old ladies who looked out their second-floor win­dows,” Neal said. “His grand­fath­er marched him to the fire­house and he spent the next two weeks sweep­ing the floors.”

Good­win may not have de­cided then to be­come a fire­fight­er, but he cer­tainly learned ac­count­ab­il­ity for his ac­tions, said the pas­tor, who also noted that Good­win grieved whenev­er oth­er fire­fight­ers were killed in the line of duty and openly ques­tioned why God would al­low them to die. But he did not al­low that to des­troy his faith.

Good­win’s fel­low church mem­bers shared his pain.

“Whenev­er there was a re­port about a fire and there was an in­jury or death, my first thoughts were, ‘I won­der if Mike knew that guy,’ “ said Sue Camp­bell, a lifelong St. Mi­chael’s mem­ber. “Then [this time] I learned it was him.”

“It was dev­ast­at­ing,” said church mem­ber Jack­ie Sarge. 

Fol­low­ing the ser­vice, Good­win was bur­ied at Hill­side Cemetery in Roslyn. •• 

Re­port­er Wil­li­am Kenny can be reached at 215-354-3031 or

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