by Len Lear
Eric Gore, a truly extraordinary firefighter with Engine 37 at 101 W. Highland Ave. in Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia’s oldest active firehouse, died June 2 at the age of 48 at Temple University Hospital after a long battle with Covid-19. Gore, who was interred after funeral services on June 12 at Ivy Hill Cemetery, 1201 Easton Rd., was posthumously promoted to Lieutenant.
Gore served in the Philadelphia Fire Department for more than 23 years, half of which he spent at Engine 61 in Olney. While working there in 2002, he was among several firefighters named in a citation for rescuing two children and an adult from a burning home. At the time of his death, Gore had been a member of the Chestnut Hill Fire Station for two years.
“Eric was definitely one of the nicest guys I have ever met,” Marc Scruggs, a Chestnut Hill firefighter for the past five years, told us last week. “He was a stand-up guy. If something had to be done, he would do it. He had a very calm demeanor. He was a joy to work with, and he was very big on 'The Avengers' and sci-fi movies.”
We tried unsuccessfully to contact Eric's older brother, Lamont, also a Philly firefighter with Ladder 15 in Frankford, but he told another local newspaper, “He was the kind of guy who would give money to kids he met even when he couldn’t spare it. I had to tell him to stop it and spend that money at home … It (public service) is in our blood … Little brothers are supposed to take whatever big brothers do and smile about it, and Eric did that.”
Lamont's wife, Deborah, is a police detective, and many other relatives have worked for either the Police or Fire Departments. In fact, before Eric was a firefighter, he was a Philly police officer for three years, and his late father, Edward, was a Philly firefighter.
Remarkably, Eric was also a published author. His 2016 novel, “Vengeance Obtained,” was about Marcel Dekrey, a 900-year-old vampire. A reviewer for Goodreads.com, Darlene Cruz, gave the book a five-star review. She wrote, “I enjoyed it; all the fantasy of paranormal characters vividly stood out here. I followed with an eagerness, keeping me in the moment of what's going to happen next and how? The author wrote a tale incredibly entertaining, simple as that!”
Another reviewer for Goodreads.com, Cheryl Phillips, gave the book a four-star review, writing, “This is an example of what could be in the ultimate battle of good and evil and how God's love helps to even the score. At times this battle put chills down my spine. I am glad I read this book.”
Gore, who grew up in Southwest Philly, near 58th and Baltimore, and graduated from Bartram High School in 1990, was also a former court stenographer, father and husband who could speak English, Spanish and Mandarin. And he was so humble that his brother, Lamont, did not even know that Eric had visited China until he had already returned.
Gore is survived by his mother, Shirley; stepfather Charlie; wife Zenaida; daughter Logan; former wife, Erica; a brother and five stepsons.
Anyone who has passed Engine 37 on Highland Avenue, where Gore worked, the past year has undoubtedly noticed all of the construction going on. Mayor Jim Kenney, along with several other city officials, broke ground June 26 of last year on a $9 million, two-year renovation and expansion of the city's oldest active firehouse.
Engine 37’s station was originally designed by Philadelphia architect John Torrey Windrim in 1894. The redesign by Cecil Baker and Partners will add 3,408 square feet to the current facility, which is 8,678 square feet.
“We are beginning a $9 million project to renovate this historic 125-year-old firehouse,” the mayor said. “When this station was built in 1894, the fire department was using horse-drawn equipment, and the attic above the building was a hay loft. Today it is difficult for 21st century fire trucks to fit through these doors, which are only nine and a half feet wide. Over the next two years, we will overhaul this building to find sufficient space for fire vehicles and modern amenities for the hard-working members of our department.”
Len Lear can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org