Former Vigilant Fire Company President Doris Groene, 77, dies

Former Vigilant Fire Company President Doris Groene, 77, dies
Then Vigilant Fire Company President Doris Groene, center, in May 2009.

Doris Groene, past president of the Vigilant Fire Company, died at her home in Mesquite, Nevada, after a long battle with cancer. She was 77.

Colleagues recalled Groene as devoted, kind and understanding, and as a mother figure at the fire company in Great Neck. She worked there for over 30 years, answering thousands of calls, both emergency and among her peers.

“She would come in, she would try to be a point of calm in the storm and exude that sense of ‘I’m here to help, it’s going to be OK,'” Assistant Fire Chief Joshua Charry said, recalling Groene’s time as a sergeant of the medic squad.

Groene was also one of the company’s first fire medics. Bob Lincoln, a longtime volunteer with the fire company and former chief, described her as a loyal and faithful member.

“She was very devoted, worked hard, made a tremendous number of calls and she was a genuine community-oriented person,” Lincoln said.

Groene also responded to the Sept. 11 terror attacks. She went with mutual aid units to the World Trade Center and Chelsea Piers under the command of First Corporal Kenneth Bleck, who died of cancer in September 2016.

Groene served as a member of the Board of Officers from 1993 until she moved to Mesquite with her husband, Frank “Mickey” Groene, another longtime Vigilant member. She was corporal and sergeant of the EMS squad before becoming vice president and then president of the fire company from 2005 to 2010.

Lincoln said that Conrad Singer, former fire chief of Vigilant, was instrumental in forming a partnership with the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, which now supplies over 100 EMTs.

But Groene, as president, worked out the details.

“That required not just training them and getting the approval, but a couple of by-law changes and some changes in operation and expectations,” Lincoln said.

As president, Charry said, she  was “firm but fair” in enforcing company bylaws and policies.

She served as secretary for the Nassau County Fireman’s Association, the sergeant-at-arms and second vice president for the Southern New York Firefighter’s Association and on numerous other committees.

She also worked at the Town of North Hempstead for 22 years.

“There were few people who cared as much about serving the Great Neck community, and I am sure her loss will be felt at Vigilant,” Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth said, drawing upon her time as a county legislator and Great Neck resident.

Vigilant Fire Chief Joshua Forst said he was lucky to serve under her as vice president. He fondly recalled  conversations with Groene, both in her time at the fire company and after.

“The first words out of her mouth were always ‘how’s your family doing, how’s your wife doing, how are the kids?'” Forst said. “Even if she wanted or needed something, she always took the time to ask how the family is.”

“In her later years in Nevada she would send me letters and newspaper clippings from the local Mesquite newspaper to help guide me as chief,” Forst added. “I will miss her advice and friendship.”

Her daughter Maureen Akridge and grandson Ryan Akridge predeceased her.

In addition to her husband, she is survived by sons Thomas McDonough, former chief of the Port Washington Fire Department, and Raymond Plakstis, former chief of Alert Fire Company and former Great Neck Village trustee; and step-daughters Jeannie Groene and Ann White.

Groene was also a grandmother of 10, many of whom are involved in the fire services, and great-grandmother of five.

The family asks that in lieu of flowers, contributions be made in her name to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.

Vigilant Fire Company will celebrate her life on Friday at 7 p.m. at the company headquarters at 83 Cutter Mill Road, Great Neck.

Her family and friends will hold a service on Saturday at 9:45 a.m. at St. Aloysius Roman Catholic Church at 592 Middle Neck Road, Great Neck.

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