Retired Portland Fire Chief Joseph McDonough died Sunday after a brief illness. He was 80.

Joseph McDonough joined the Portland Fire Department in 1960 and was chief from 1977-88.

He was remembered Tuesday as a devoted family man and dedicated leader who served the city for over 28 years.

Mr. McDonough joined the department in 1960 as a firefighter. He rose through the ranks to lieutenant, then captain and was named Portland fire chief in 1977.

During his tenure as chief, he led the department during a period of economic strain. Some departments saw reductions in staff and new equipment was difficult to fund. McDonough worked to ensure his staff had proper training and new equipment.

A natural athlete and competitor, the chief participated in the department’s softball team and lifted weights regularly. He was highly respected among firefighters and led by example.

As chief, McDonough oversaw the relocation of the 1898 Fireman Statue from Evergreen Cemetery to Central Fire Station in 1987.

“He was a great leader who fought for his men and their families,” said Jackie Flaherty, retired deputy chief of the Portland Fire Department.

His wife, Ann McDonough, reminisced Tuesday about his early years as chief. She recalled the day he responded to a fire at Mercy Hospital. She drove to the scene.

“It was mayhem,” his wife said. “I looked and saw my husband standing outside the hospital. It looked like he was conducting an orchestra … directing a truck to move there and ladders to go there. I thought to myself, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s impressive.’ ”

McDonough retired in 1988.

For him, family was everything. He and his wife shared 60 years of marriage and raised four children.

During an interview Tuesday, she was home in Standish watching the waves crash on docks on Sebago Lake.

“It’s unbelievable. We love it here,” she said.

She reminisced about their life together, raising kids and watching their grandchildren grow up.

Mr. McDonough attended his daughter’s swim meets and his grandkid’s lacrosse games.

He also attended all of his son’s football games and wrestling matches, and was always the loudest voice in the stands.

John McDonough laughed Tuesday, saying his father even came to practices.

“He was that dad,” his son said. “He was always there for everything, always present. He was my best friend. He was a great example. I learned how to be a man by watching him. He was always my biggest advocate, my number one fan.”

Mr. McDonough was big man in stature, but had a tender heart. His wife said he prepared meals for her and sent pictures of the food to their kids. He would cover her with a blanket when she was cold, she said.

“Everything he did was for me,” she said. “All I can say is what a wonderful life. We were extremely blessed. God blessed us greatly. He gave us four beautiful, healthy children and they’re all smart, Siri smart. To this day, they amaze me. And God gave us 14 grandchildren and one great grandson, the new prince in the family.”

Family and friends will gather from 4 to 6 p.m. today, Dec. 20, at the Conroy-Tully Walker Funeral Home, 172 State St. in Portland. A mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Friday at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland.

Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: MelanieCreamer

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