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After Marine vet with coronavirus dies, firefighters hold procession past his home so widow can say goodbye

The funeral procession for Richard Gould. (Avalon Zoppo | NJ Advance Media/TNS)

He was a grandfather, former fire commissioner and served in the U.S. Marine Corps.

On March 29, Woodbridge resident Richard Gould died from coronavirus complications. But to give his wife and family— who are social distancing amid the pandemic— a chance to say goodbye, the local fire department held a processional past his house Friday.

The bright lights of the firetruck went down Park Avenue, followed the hearse carrying his coffin.

“He was a unique personality. He was very talkative, personable and always quick witted,” said Woodbridge Mayor John McCormac, a friend of the Brooklyn-born Gould. “Our fire companies are the fabric of our community. There’s a brotherhood there that can’t be matched. When one goes down, they all grieve together. What the fire company did was wonderful for his family (and) an amazing gesture for a long-time public servant.”

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Born in Brooklyn, Gould was a Woodbridge Township fire commissioner from the 1990s to 2010, said long-time friend and acting fire chief John Golden. He was involved with the volunteers and the hiring process, giving Golden his first job at the department 23 years ago.

Gould was also the owner of the Edison-based State Alarm Company, a fire system security supplier, for 20 years and worked with businesses across Woodbridge. That translated into a love for enforcement of the fire code, Golden said. He worked with Woodbridge’s Fire Prevention Bureau.

“Richie’s career was involved in fire alarms and security, so he held the code very dear to his heart. He really supported the inspectors and fire official every chance he could,” Golden said.

Gould recently was awarded a 2019 Pioneer Award for the New Jersey Electronic Security Association, according to his obituary.

The 81-year-old was among the 94 patients of St. Joseph’s Senior Home in Woodbridge, where residents were evacuated to CareOne in Whippany after at least 11 tested positive for the coronavirus. A dozen of the St. Joseph’s employees had been forced to stay at home with flu-like symptoms, leaving just three nuns to care for all of the residents.

Gould, who moved to St. Joseph’s three years ago, was devoted to his family and friends as well as being a godfather to ten godchildren,” his obituary reads.

“Richie was a very funny guy. He cared a lot about the department, both career and volunteer. He loved kids and loved to make kids smile,” Golden said.

Neighbor Elizabeth Willians-Riley, who posted a video of the procession online, said she received an outpouring of thanks from Gould’s family for giving them a way to say goodbye, even if virtually.

Amid the outbreak, large events have been limited to small groups or postponed entirely to help stop the spread of the virus. That has left some families without closure, foregoing the normal hugs, kisses and tears that accompany funeral services.

“The family was very appreciative,” Willians-Riley said. “It’s very heartbreaking to not be able to say goodbye. He was such a good man and meant so much to so many people.”

As of Sunday, there were at least 34,124 coronavirus cases in New Jersey and 846 deaths.

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© 2020 NJ Advance Media Group