Brother George -
Brookline's Honorary Fireman
The Brookline firehouse has stood on Brookline Boulevard for over a century. For nearly forty of those one hundred years, one man stood out among the crew of city firemen. He became a fixture at the firehouse, and his duties took him to all corners of Brookline. His daily walks around the community brought him in contact with the residents, and his kind-hearted manner endeared him to everyone. His name is George Gilfoyle, and he is affectionately known as Brother George.
George was born in 1945 and lived for a short time in Perrysville. When George was ten, his family, which includes sisters Sharyn and Kathleen, and brother Michael, moved to Brookline and settled on Berwin Avenue. George soon became a regular visitor at the Brookline firehouse. By age twelve he was spending so much time there, and was so helpful and inquisitive, that the firemen began assigning him various volunteer duties.
George was a student, and later a workshop assistant, at the South Park Opportunity Center. When he wasn't at school, he was at the firehouse. As George grew and matured, he was named an honorary member of the firehouse crew. His assignment was to inspect the Gamewell fire alarm boxes that were installed on telephone poles around the community. This was a very important job, and George went about his task with due diligence and devotion.
Armed with his clipboard, flashlight and radio, he would travel the streets of Brookline, going from one alarm box to the next. He would report in to the station and then test the boxes to make sure they were in working order. In the event of a neighborhood fire, George would take off running and often arrive at the scene before the fire truck and crew. The community of Brookline was always a safer place when George was on duty.
During his daily walks, George got to know most everyone in Brookline. He was always ready to stop and talk to his many friends. He had a special way of interacting with people of all ages. He would ask the kids how they were doing in school and take the time to educate them on fire safety. He was always kind to the ladies and enjoyed having a cup of coffee with his many acquaintances on the boulevard. Anytime a friend would pass by and shout "Hello, Brother George," he would stop in his tracks and wave warmly until the passerby was out-of-sight. He loved being around people.
A devout Catholic, George regularly attended Mass at Resurrection Church. He was an altar server in the 1980s for Father John Marcucci. When not assisting with the service, George sat near the front of the church, praying ever so sincerely. Whenever a friend entered the sanctuary, George would stand up and wave. With so many friends to his credit, George did a lot of standing and waving during Mass. The gestures were so genuine that not even the priests would interrupt. It was classic George Gilfoyle.
In 2000, George was named an honorary Battalion Chief, an honor that he held dear to his heart. George remained at his post in the firehouse until 2004, when health issues forced him to stay closer to home. It didn't take long before people around the community began asking, "Where's George?"
For the past several years George has remained at home, now on Fernhill Avenue, helping to care for his mother. His prolonged absence at the firehouse had many people wondering what had happened to the gentle man with the contagious smile who, over the years, had become one of Brookline's most iconic figures, a community guardian and ambassabor of good will.
For those that have been wondering, George is doing fine. Now age sixty-eight, he has slowed a bit, and his duties at home keep him from his familiar post at the firehouse, but his heart still belongs to his many friends in Brookline, who he misses very much.
On Sunday, April 28, 2013, after so many years away from the public spotlight, George finally came out for a visit. At the Taste of Brookline event at Resurrection Church, Brother George Gilfoyle was in attendance to accept awards for his dedication and devotion to Brookline. He received a plaque from the community, a tin of cookies from his friends at Resurrection, and to top it off, he was given a proclamation from the City of Pittsburgh declaring April 28, 2013 as "George Gilfoyle Day."
It was a great day for George, and a recognition that was long overdue. Seeing George mingling with friends and neighbors once again was heartwarming. It was as though he had never been away. His contagious smile and quick wit are something that have been missing here in Brookline for far too long.
"Brother" George Gilfoyle is one of those rare individuals that have a special talent for making people happy. He has touched and inspired the lives of so many people over the years and, in his own unique way, has done as much as anyone to make the community of Brookline a better place. The world could use more of the happiness and good-natured friendliness of men like George Gilfoyle.
The Text Of George's City Council Proclamation
Whereas, George Gilfoyle has been a
Brookline resident for 58 of his 68 years, living first on Berwin Avenue
and, for the past ten years, on Fernhill Avenue, and
Plaque Presented To George
Some More Photos Of Brother George
* Photos provided by Dolores Gilfoyle, Kathleen Gilfoyle and Melissa Distel - April 2013 *
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