Foggy Gomes (1926-2008)
The portrait of Chief Eugene “Foggy” Gomes is Matt Leach’s tribute to the Chief, and gift to the Mendocino Volunteer Fire Department. Reflected in the Chief’s spectacles: another Mendocino icon, the sculpture of Time and the Maiden atop the Masonic Hall across the street from Chief Gomes’ Fire Department. Note: “Foggy” is pronounced “fogey.”
The painting is on view at the firehouse on Lansing Street in Mendocino. Don’t miss the Mendocino Volunteer Fire Department’s Fourth of July Pancake breakfast.
From a proclamation by the Mendocino Board of Supervisors, on the 125th anniversary of the Mendocino Volunteer Fire Department: ...through the first half of the twentieth century, the Department had both advances and retreats, World War II dealing the biggest blow with a majority of the town’s young men going off to war, until Eugene “Foggy” Gomes, a 22-year-old Navy sailor with a flair for fabricating firefighting equipment from used vehicles, returned from the war and took on the task of rebuilding the Mendocino Volunteer Fire Department, serving as Chief for the next 53 years until retiring in 1997.
From Mendocino Volunteer Fire Department: 125 Years of Community Service (Part 1) by Firefighter Bob DeCarli: A few years after Foggy Gomes became Chief, the citizens of Mendocino began working to create a fire protection district to provide the Department with greater financial resources. Over one hundred residents submitted a petition to the County, and after a public hearing in March 1948, the Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to create the district.
Under the leadership of Chief Gomes, and with the backing of the newly created fire district, the department grew. In 1948, largely from donations, the Department acquired its first new fire engine since purchasing the hand pumper in the previous century. The new engine, referred to as “The White,” cost $13,689, and carried 500 gallons of water. Still in service today, the White is a favorite at the annual open house, giving children of all ages rides throughout town.
Chief Gomes took a department that was on the edge of collapse at the end of World War II, and built it into a modern fire department. The residents of Mendocino owe Chief Gomes a debt of gratitude for the Department that exists today.
The Gloriana Opera Company’s 1978 production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Iolanthe was dedicated to Chief Gomes. At the premiere, the Fairy Queen (played by Linda Warren Pack), serenaded him:
…On fire that glows
With heat intense
I turn the hose
Of common sense
And out it goes
At small expense
We must maintain
Our fairy laws
That is the main
On which to draw
In that we gain a Foggy Gomes
Oh, Foggy Gomes
Type of true love kept under
Could thy brigade with cold cascade
Quench my great love I wonder.
From “Oh Foolish fay” (Iolanthe, Act II)
From the Mendocino Beacon (May 8, 2009): Bearing the casket of Chief Eugene “Foggy” Gomes, Mendocino Volunteer Fire Department fire and rescue vehicles quietly circled through town Saturday en route to Zenith Hill Cemetery, where he was buried with military honors. Chief Gomes died April 30, and his wife of 64 years, Connie, died March 17. Both were born, raised and spent their entire lives in Mendocino where they were an integral part of the tight-knit community.
A potluck memorial service was held at the Little Lake Road firehouse, Saturday, May 10 at 11 a.m.
Matt Leach: Artwork
Mendocino Heritage Artists