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Richard J. Fildes, 90, Buffalo firefighter for 38 years and active community volunteer

April 27, 1928 — April 18, 2019

Richard "Dick" Fildes worked two jobs to support his seven children and for years was an active volunteer in his church and several organizations.

Still, about a year ago, while living in Father Baker Manor, where he had volunteered for many years, he asked his son Gerard a strange question.

The two were just sitting together when, said Gerard, "He asked me, 'Did I do enough? Was I good enough?'"

"It kind of took me aback, because with all the things he did for us, he made sure we had a nice home, he put us all through private schools, braces on our teeth, a pool in the back yard, and all the volunteer work, how could he even ask, 'Was I good enough?' or "Did I do enough?'" his son said.

Gerard Fildes hastened to reassure his dad that "he had done more than enough. In fact, I told him that I could not have had a better father."

Mr. Fildes died April 18, 2019, in Father Baker Manor in Orchard Park, nine days before his 91st birthday.

"His family and church, that was his life," said his daughter Karen Hennig.

"He was such an inspiration," said his daughter Kathleen Fildes. "When we would come to visit, my son always loved going to the soup kitchen with him."

Mr. Fildes was born April 27, 1928, the middle son of Vincent and Frances (Wolf) Fildes and brother of Vincent and Robert Fildes. His father was a carpenter who installed floors.

He attended St. Matthew's School and Bennett High School, where he skipped a grade and graduated at  17.

He enlisted in the U.S. Army and served in Korea between 1951 and 1952, working as a ground crew mechanic for spotter planes. He was honorably discharged with the rank of sergeant.

Mr. Fildes got to know Rita Uschold, the sister of a buddy, through Catholic Youth Organization events. The two married on Sept. 19, 1953, in St. Matthew's Church. They had three sons and four daughters: Thomas, Gerard, Kathleen, Karen, Janet, Daniel and Pamela. In 1962, the family moved to Orchard Park.

Mr. Fildes was a Buffalo firefighter for 38 years, working for most of his career at Engine 24/Hook and Ladder 7 at Fillmore and Leroy avenues. He retired in 1990 from Engine 28 at East Lovejoy and Gold streets.

Mr. Fildes also worked for decades at Allied Bowling in North Buffalo, first as a pin-setter and then a mechanic.

After retirement, he dedicated himself to volunteer work, including in the St. Vincent de Paul soup kitchen. He was active in his church, St. John Vianney, working bingo games and serving as a eucharistic minister for ill or elderly parishioners.

"Volunteer work was just meant to be his calling, that's what he thought," said his daughter Kathleen Fildes. "It was just following in Jesus' footsteps."

It was important to Mr. Fildes to keep his accomplishments low-key. "We never learned he was in the service until a lot later in life," said Kathleen Fildes, who discovered that her father was a veteran when she found a yearbook of his service on a bookshelf in their home.

The family recalls that he was once named Volunteer of the Year  at the West Seneca Developmental Center, but they have no other details. Likewise, only a newspaper records search reveals that he won a 2001 Ozanam Medal for outstanding service from the Buffalo Catholic Diocesan Council of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.

"Knowing my father, as humble as he was, any awards he received, he didn't brag about it," said Gerard Fildes.

"He never asked for any glory," said Kathleen Fildes. "I think sometimes he was embarrassed to get an award for something he did."

Both Mr. and Mrs. Fildes were active in their church's Marriage Encounter and with the Kairos Prison Ministry, for which they spent weekends inside the Collins Correctional Facility participating in discussions, meditations and worship with inmates.

He was a member of the Knights of Columbus starting in the 1940s.

Their daughter, Pamela Sudyn, died in 2000 and Mrs. Fildes died in September 2003.

Mr. Fildes is survived by his sons, Thomas, Gerard and Daniel Fildes; daughters Kathleen Fildes, Karen Hennig and Janet Smith; 17 grandchildren; 14 great-grandchildren; and nieces and nephews.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be said at 9 a.m. Monday in St. John Vianney Church, 2950 Southwestern Blvd., Orchard Park.

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