GEORGE PATRICK COUGHLIN, 85
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WINTER HAVEN - George Patrick Coughlin was born June 14, 1928, on Flag Day in Pittsfield, MA. He quit school at age 17 to join the US Navy, spending his first 2 years of service on the Atlantic Coast operating large trucks. He was then assigned to the USS Tolovana, an oiler assigned to the Pacific Fleet. Affectionately known as the "Leaky T", the ship carried diesel, auto and aviation gasoline to military bases between Guam, Hawaii, Alaska and the Aleutian Islands. He completed his military service as Electrician's Mate Third Class. He received several medals including the Victory Medal World War II.
After leaving the Navy, George married Rosemary "Ro" Goddeau and in 1950, became a professional firefighter in the Pittsfield MA Fire Department PFD . He spent much of the first 16 years as a driver of Engine 5 on Pecks Road. He loved the camaraderie of his fellow firefighters and enjoyed the many years he helped with the Pittsfield Fireman's 4th of July Parade and Fireman's Muster. George spent his last 9 years in the PFD as an inspector in the Fire Prevention Division. In 1973, he ran for and won an unpaid seat on the Pittsfield School Committee.
In October, 1975, after 25 years of service in the PFD, George took mandated retirement due to a disability from two back injuries that rendered him unable to perform all required firefighting tasks. He completed his second term as a school committee member and then ran for and won the Ward 5 City Council seat. However, in September 1977 while on a fishing trip with fellow firefighter and long-time friend Joe Amuso, George had a heart attack. Due to the quick actions of Joe and his wife, George survived. While recuperating, George made the decision to finish his council term, but not to seek reelection. He had completed 5 years of public service. In 1979, he made an unsuccessful run for mayor of Pittsfield on a pro-Pyramid mall platform supporting building the mall in downtown Pittsfield.
George and Ro purchased a second home in Swiss Village Mobile Home Park, Winter Haven, FL where they spent 22 years as "snowbirds". George discovered that the response time for emergency personnel to get to Swiss Village was about 9 minutes. He took it upon himself to advocate for a fire station closer to the many developments in the Lucerne and Old Lucerne Rd. area of Winter Haven. He enlisted help from others in near-by developments and worked tirelessly gathering petitions and getting residents to pack city government meetings until the city finally built Fire Station No. 2 on Lucerne Park Road.
In 2005, George began the last battle of his life as he became an invalid after post-operative complications. Out of necessity, he and Ro became permanent residents of Swiss Village. After Ro died 3-years ago, it took a cadre of care givers and guidance from Barbara Herrington and her employees from All About Aging to take up where Ro left off. During those last years, George experienced many medical emergencies requiring calls to 911. The first responders were always the firefighters from station No. 2 that George fought so hard for.
During the past year, George resided at Clare Bridge Assisted Living Facility AFL in Lakeland where he was taken care of by very skilled and caring staff. Recently, needing more care including that from Compassionate Care Hospice, he moved to the warm, home-like environment of Wedgewood ALF in Winter Haven.
George is survived by his 3 daughters Patricia Krouson Wally of Lake Wales, FL, Debbi Merrill Hank of Weaver, AL, and Judy Coughlin PhD professor of education at Nova University, Fort Lauderdale, FL; 5 grandchildren Lt. Col. Patrick Farrell USAF Kate Debow , Jeremy Merrill, Kimberly Merrill Green Joe , Katie Mesler, and Colleen Mesler; 3 great-grandchildren; nieces Dianne Dudek and Sharon Coe of Pittsfield, MA, and Karen Schoenrock of CT; 3 nephews Kevin, Michael, and Brian Coughlin of Rochester, NY; and his brother-in-law John Freiderick retired PFD captain.
As a young firefighter, George was a member of the Bobby Kidney Sunshine Club where he ran weekly movies for "shut-ins". He served on the board of the directors of the Pittsfield Municipal Credit Union, and was a member of the Forest Wardens Association of Berkshire County and the North American Family Campers Association. At Swiss Village, George held various elected positions and volunteered for numerous social activities. He was a member of the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
George passed away peacefully on April 19, 2014, due to natural causes.
A Celebration of his life will be held at St. Joseph Catholic Church, 532 Ave. M N.W., Winter Haven, FL 33881, at 10 00 a.m., on Saturday, May 3, 2014.
Published in Ledger from Apr. 30 to May 1, 2014