By: Jen Russon
Garrison Grant Westbrook, “Garry,” passed away on Friday, June 18, following a two-month battle with COVID-19. He was 66-years-old.
His family expressed their profound gratitude to Broward Health Coral Springs, specifically the CCU unit.
“They never gave up on him. They did everything possible to help him fight, and they were a great source of comfort to my brother and me during the fight and afterward,” said daughter Jennifer Gilreath.
Westbrook served close to four decades as chief of Margate Fire Rescue, retiring from public service in 2011, a brass ring he managed to grasp at a tender age.
He began putting out fires as a teenaged volunteer, wracking up tardies at Coconut Creek High School whenever he smelled smoke.
Gilreath said his roots ran so deep in Coral Springs, he had a hand in forming both the city’s teen club and Forum newspaper.
“Dad believed strongly in preserving traditions and maintaining his relationships with his family and friends,” she said.
Her father used to talk about when the police station was just a small building at Mullins Park and how the little white bank building next to it was the original city hall.
“Coral Springs was home. It’s where he was married, where we, his kids, grew up, and where he planned to spend time with his grandchildren, “ said Gilreath.
Among the first graduating class of Coconut Creek High in 1973, Westbrook joined the Delray Beach Fire Department as a rookie, wet behind the ears yet showing inextinguishable passion for his work.
By age 20, he wore Badge #12 for Margate Fire Rescue and would fine-tune his career there for the next 37 years, climbing his way toward ISO class 1 and becoming one of the inspirations for Firefighters Memorial Park.
Enriching his education following these accolades, the then 30-year-old Westbrook earned his associate’s degree in Fire Science; not a decade later, he earned a bachelor’s of arts in Professional Studies from Barry University, cinching an Executive Fire Officer designation from the National Fire Academy by the year 2000.
Setting a figurative fire of passion and achievement wherever he went, the New York native was never one to be all work and no play.
Westbrook’s hobbies included working on his Corvette that picked up many many awards for its impeccable bodywork. He was a huge fan of the Minnesota Vikings and known for a thousand-watt smile that never wavered as he held out hope his team would win the Super Bowl.
His love for the Vikings came from spending much of his childhood in the Minnesota town of Rochester, but it was in South Florida where Westbrook put down roots, married, and raised a family in The Crossings neighborhood.
His grown children said their father had great respect for his city leaders and felt there was no better place to live than Coral Springs.
“He had his favorite restaurants, like Big Bear and Cooper’s Hawk. He always started his day with a 5-mile run up Sample and through Turtle Run, then head somewhere for a black coffee with two Splendas,” his daughter fondly recalled.
She said she grew up listening to his stories about the days when Wiles Road wasn’t even paved.
“Dad would want his legacy to be always doing the right thing for your family and friends, just like he tried to for the residents he served. He wasn’t in public service for accolades or awards. He did it because he had honor and integrity.”
In his lifetime, Westbrook served as the President of the Broward County Chiefs Association and was a 4th Degree Knight with the Knights of Columbus.
He is survived by his current wife, Vicky Westbrook, ex-wife, Sharon Westbrook, mother to Jennifer (Westbrook) Gilreath, and Garrison Grant Westbrook, Jr., and five grandchildren. Westbrook is also survived by his brothers, Robert and Thomas.
Garrison Westbrook will be laid to rest at Our Lady Queen of Heaven Catholic Cemetery on Saturday, June 26, at 12:30 p.m.
The City of Coral Springs lent their caisson truck for the occasion and will send emergency vehicles from the Coral Springs-Parkland Fire Departments to honor his memory.
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- Jen Russon has been a staff writer for Talk Media since 2018. She is also a novelist, copywriter and editor at Swallow Publishing, LLC.
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