Goldberg leaves behind shadowy past


March 29, 2018

Phil Goldberg and Betty Reyes.

Phil Goldberg, who described himself as a former fireman and investigator but may not have been either, died March 14 at his Fourth Avenue trailer of apparent kidney failure. He was 63.

A 20-year resident, who often wrote letters to the CVN, Goldberg shared little about his life before Haines with Betty Reyes, his companion and caregiver for the past five years. A former acquaintance, Reyes was homeless in Arizona when Goldberg contacted her via the Internet and invited her to join him.

"He was really good to me," Reyes said this week. "We never had any issues together. I'm going to miss him." Goldberg liked fishing at Chilkoot Lake, watching TV news, and listening to the police radio, Reyes said.

Goldberg was a "cop groupie," according to his brother-in-law, a sergeant with the sheriff's department in Malheur County, Ore., that includes Vale.

"Phil's a talker. A nice guy, but a hell of a talker," Sgt. Robert Speelman said this week in a phone interview. "He would have liked to have worked in fire investigating, but he never did. He told a tall tale a time or two."

Speelman said Goldberg was born in Maine and moved with his family first to California then Oregon, settling in Vale. Goldberg's stepfather worked as a corrections officer and his mother was a police dispatcher in Vale, he said.

Goldberg told Reyes he had worked variously as a wildlands firefighter, as a fire chief in Oregon, with the U.S. Marshals Service transporting prisoners, and as a private investigator. He said that he'd broken his back in a fall from a cliff while firefighting.

Longtime resident Jim Wilson described Goldberg as a "gracious, intelligent and cordial" street person living in a trailer when he started helping him, including by giving him an Army sleeping bag. "He seemed like an underdog who needed help," Wilson said.

Using government checks Goldberg received, Wilson was able to repay Goldberg's debts to businesses around town while Goldberg was in an Alaska prison for mail fraud.

The friendship ended when Goldberg lashed out at Wilson.

Wilson and others said Goldberg spent considerable time phoning public safety agencies collecting memorabilia like Marshals Service mugs and the "FBI" hat he wore.

In an online profile, Goldberg listed "fire management" and "customer relations" as skills. Among interests he listed the International Association of Chiefs of Police, U.S. Department of Homeland Security and "private investigator." He also listed Forbes, Wiscasset High School and Maine College of Art.

Court records show Goldberg was a twice-convicted felon who impersonated a federal agent to bilk $13,000 of police merchandise from 11 companies starting in 2004.

In Haines, his court record includes several protective orders, and convictions for domestic violence and operating a business without a license.

Goldberg is survived by sisters Kim Speelman and Vicki Termine of Vale, Ore. and by a stepsister, Paula, in San Diego. Speelman said Goldberg also had a son, Bill, living near Spokane, Ore.

Goldberg was buried at Jones Point Cemetery. Reyes can be reached at P.O. Box 510, Haines.


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