Remembering a respected firefighter

Joseph Sanford Jr. noted for his community commitment

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Firefighters, police officers, family members and friends gathered at the Our Lady of Good Counsel Church in Inwood  to pay their respects to Joseph Sanford, Jr., 43, on Dec. 31

The Inwood resident member of the community's fire department died from injuries on Dec. 23 sustained in a Woodmere house fire. One of the first to get to the Central Avenue home, Sanford fell through the first floor to the basement.

Sanford, known as Junior to his family and friends, was a 17-year veteran volunteer of the fire department. He was posthumously promoted from first deputy chief to chief. He also worked for the Nassau County Department of Public Works.

Several hundred firefighters and police officers stood alongside government leaders such as State Sen.Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre), Town of Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray, County Executive Ed Mangano, and Assemblyman-elect Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach).

In the eulogy, Overseer Wilbert Ingram III, of the Greater Beginnings Ministries of Cambria Heights,said that Sanford would also be remembered for his love of football.

“On Sundays, you could find him on the football field with the biggest smile,” he said. “Joseph’s explosive personality could light up any situation.”

Sanford’s longtime friend and former neighbor Diane Tyler of Inwood said she would remember him for his kindness.

“He and his wife used to play Mr. and Ms. Claus,” Tyler said. “They would get on the fire truck and play the music while coming down the street, and when the kids would come out, they would give them peppermint candies, and laugh and joke with us. He and his wife are beautiful people.”

Rabbi Gedaliah Oppen, the Judaic principal at the Hebrew Academy of the Five Towns and Rockaway and his son, Yitz, came out to pay their respects to Sanford. Oppen said that his son was a personal trainer at Sanford’s gym. His son asked him if he was going to the funeral and they decided to come together.

“We came out to express our gratitude,” he said. “I didn’t know him but I knew what he was, a real hero. He sacrificed himself for us.”

Sanford is survived by his wife, Jacqueline, his children, Janisha, Douglas and Isaiah, his mother, Debra, his father, Joseph, Sr., his brothers Christopher, Kyle, Michael and Andre, a sister, Gwendolyn, and several aunts, uncles and cousins.

Burial was at Greenfield Cemetery in Uniondale following the funeral.

The Inwood Fire Department has established a fund for Sanford’s family. Donations can be sent to Inwood Fire Department, Joseph Sanford Jr. Fund, 188 Doughty Blvd., Inwood, N.Y., 11096.