Upon request, Alfred Goodman Sr. would pull out his medals and show them to anyone interested in learning about his stint in the Army.
Goodman, 61, lost both his legs fighting during the Vietnam War, but he cherished his time in the service.
"He was proud," said Edward Carter, a longtime family friend. "And he just showed me his Purple Heart" on Wednesday.
Goodman, his son by the same name and a 19-year-old woman were killed early Thursday morning in a fire in the 3500 block of Woodbrook Ave., a block away from Mondawmin Mall in West Baltimore.
Carter was among about a dozen friends and family who stood near the charred three-story brick house Thursday morning and consoled surviving family members. Goodman's 17-year-old granddaughter and an 18-year-old grandson escaped the fire. The blaze started about 2 a.m., according to a Fire Department spokesman.
Commanders elevated the blaze to a three-alarm fire but had to evacuate firefighters inside the house because of deteriorating conditions, spokesman Kevin Cartwright said.
The fire was brought under control at 4:10 a.m., according to Cartwright. No cause has been determined.
Trucks from a fire station in the same block as the blaze were the first respondents, Cartwright said. Although the city rotates closing firehouses on given nights to save money, Cartwright said the station was open and firefighters arrived shortly after receiving the call.
"What caused this fire to be so intense was that they had a whole lot of debris in that house," Cartwright said. "That debris was like gasoline. It literally fuels and intensifies the fire."
Dorothea Goodman, Alfred Goodman Sr.'s wife, was working at the time of the fire. She and the elder Goodman had been married for 40 years, and the couple lived the past 10 years at the house in the Parkview/Woodbrook neighborhood. "And we had been friends since he was 6 and I was 9," she said.
Goodman said her husband retired from the military after he was injured in combat. She took care of him by working two bus-driving jobs, and the couple's house served as a welcoming spot for family members who needed a place to stay. She said her grandson's girlfriend, Keisha Harrison, lived there and was also killed in the fire.
"I'm just glad my aunt was at work because she would have been a victim, too," said Ira McCoy, Goodman's nephew. "My aunt is trying to be strong. I'm hurt because that's my close family. It was good times with the family."
Stanley Rochkind, a family friend, said he used to own the property but sold it to the Goodmans a few years ago. Rochkind said he has known the family for years and is helping Dorothea Goodman find an apartment near the house. "She would come and talk to me," Rochkind said. "I saw how she was taking care of her husband and working hard. I thought she needed a hand."
Baltimore Sun reporter Liz F. Kay contributed to this article.