Joseph W. Godleski's career in sales included a stint running a company in Florida. Fletcher Fish, the gentle-mannered board chairman of Glen Rock Savings Bank, had recently taken up painting.
The two retirees became the only residents of Bergen or Passaic counties County to lose their lives as superstorm Sandy tore through North Jersey last week.
Mr. Godleski, of South Hackensack, was swept away by floodwaters during an early-morning coffee run to his local Dunkin' Donuts. Mr. Fish died when two trees crashed through the roof of his Hawthorne home, pinning him on the second floor.
Mr. Godleski was 69. Mr. Fish was 77.
Joseph W. Godleski
"I'm not saying he was a saint from heaven, but he was the best man you ever saw," Barbara Godleski said of her husband of 48 years. "He never said a fresh word about anyone."
How good a man?
"Joe took care of my mother when she had a brain tumor," Barbara said. "He would dress her, and at the end, when he would do something for her, she'd say, 'Thank you, Joe,' and he'd say, 'Mom, don't say thank you. Just say I love you.'x"
Joseph W. Godleski grew up in Paramus and met his future wife when they were teenagers. Joe worked at the movie theater at the old Bergen Mall, and Barbara's cousin's boyfriend worked at the Kinney Shoes store in the mall. That's how they were fixed up.
They were married two years later at St. Francis R.C. Church in Hackensack.
Mr. Godleski worked in sales for fastener companies. For 10 years, he ran a company in Winter Springs, Fla.
"But we didn't like Florida we didn't have any family or friends there," Barbara said. "New Jersey was home."
Mr. Godleski, who used a cane because of back pain, was retired from Accurate Precision Fasteners in Englewood.
As Sandy was blowing into the region a week ago Monday, Barbara Godleski told her husband that she didn't want him going out for coffee the next morning.
That was Mr. Godleski's cherished routine: rising at 5:30 and driving to the Dunkin' Donuts on Route 46, just east of Teterboro Airport.
"The people there would walk the coffee out to him," Barbara said. "Everyone loved him."
The couple's modest brick house on Dinallo Street was bone-dry last Tuesday morning. The street had no flooding. Mr. Godleski probably thought it was safe to venture out, his wife said, and he did so while Barbara was still sleeping.
"When I saw early in the morning he wasn't home, my son and I went to every hospital in the storm, every emergency room, looking for him," she said. "And when we couldn't find him, we notified police at 8:30 in the morning."
Mr. Godleski's body was found that afternoon at East Kennedy and South River streets in Hackensack, close to the Hackensack River and two-thirds of a mile east of his home. His car, a 2002 Mazda, was submerged nearby. His cane was inside.
He apparently drove into floodwaters and was carried off by the current when he tried to leave the car, authorities said. His wife believes he was making his way home from the Dunkin' Donuts, which was closed.
Joseph W. Godleski also is survived by a son, Joseph R. Godleski. The funeral Mass was celebrated Saturday at the Hackensack church where Mr. Godleski and his wife exchanged vows.
Fletcher Fish, a 52-year Hawthorne resident, was a cornerstone of the business community and a friend of William Paterson University.
The Westwood High School graduate was a former board chairman of the William Paterson University Foundation. With his wife, Mae, he endowed a university competition for high school musicians.
"The best way to describe Fletch is 'real gentleman,'x" said Aaron Van Duyne III, vice chairman of the foundation's board.
"He was polite and soft-spoken, and when he asked you to do something, you did it because he was such a great guy. You didn't want to let Fletch down."
Carol Frierson-Campbell, chairwoman of the university's music department, said Mr. Fish and his wife were enthusiastic patrons of campus musical performances. "He was more than just a patron who gave money," she said. "He got a lot of joy being involved personally with the music department."
Mr. Fish had a general insurance agency in Wayne, Fish Insurance & FMF Inc., for 27 years. And he was in his second decade as chairman of Glen Rock Savings Bank.
To bank president and CEO Henry Ingrassia, Mr. Fish was "as genuinely nice a man as you would ever want to meet."
"He was always even-tempered," Ingrassia said, "and in a world where stress comes from many sources, he certainly kept that adversity from affecting him."
One of Mr. Fish's abiding passions was evident on the boardroom wall at the bank's Hawthorne headquarters: an oil-color painting of a mountain landscape.
Mr. Fish started painting five years ago and focused on landscapes, seascapes, still- lifes and portraits, according to a recent article in the weekly Glen Rock Gazette newspaper. He won first prize in a Hawthorne Library art show last year and also exhibited at the Glen Rock Library.
Mr. Fish was killed when the trees fell on his Kingston Avenue home at 7:15 p.m. the Monday of the storm.
In addition to his wife, he is survived by his daughters Beth Betsch of Glen Rock and Mary Lou Rainey of Hawthorne; a brother, Niel cq Fish of Fair Lawn, and two grandchildren. A graveside service was held Monday at George Washington Memorial Park in Paramus.
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