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Michael J. Maye
(June 25, 1930 - February 15, 2013)

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Michael J. Maye

U.S. Veteran

Michael “Mickey” Maye, a Daily News Golden Gloves champion and controversial FDNY union head, died of a heart attack in Boynton Beach, Fla., on Friday. He was 83. Born and raised on E. 138th St. in the South Bronx, the imposing 6-foot-2-inch, 210-pound scrapper liked a good tussle, whether in the boxing ring or at City Hall fighting to improve firefighter safety and benefits, family members said. Maye had 119 wins as both an amateur and pro boxer — a career that spiked in 1950, when he won the first of two consecutive Golden Glove Championships against Dominick DeFendis and Anthony Zampelli. A short time later, he lent his pugilistic spirit to Uncle Sam and signed up to fight in the Korean War, his son Michael remembered. “He was the kind of guy John Wayne played in the movies, but he played it in real life,” his son said. “He was the biggest, strongest man I ever met and he had the biggest heart I’d ever seen.” Maye worked as a sand hog — a construction worker who dug tunnels under New York City — until 1957, when he joined the New York Fire Department. Ten years and four bravery citations later, he was elected president of the Uniform Firefighters Association, where he spent his days brawling with cash-strapped city heads over wage freezes and firefighter layoffs in a time when fires were rampant. “He will be remembered as an extraordinary leader in very challenging times," United Firefighters Association President Steve Cassidy said. Yet sometimes it was hard for Maye to control his inner brawler: In 1971, after gay rights activists stormed the stage at a dinner put on by a group of New York city political reporters, the union leader was accused of shoving and kicking 21-year-old activist Morty Manford. Maye was charged with harassment and ultimately acquitted, but was pegged as a homophobe for the rest of his career — even though he claimed he moonlighted as a bouncer at a gay bar in Greenwich Village when he was younger. “The fact that they were gay never bothered me,” Maye told The New York Times in 1996. “I just didn't like them insulting the guests. Our wives were up in the balcony watching this.” The trial cost Maye his re-election in 1973, but he was soon back as head of the Uniform Firefighters Association in 1975. He retired in 1978 and worked as a union head for the Teamsters until the late 1980s, when he and his wife Catherine, who died in 2012, moved to Florida. Maye is survived by two sons — both New York firefighters; three daughters; and 10 grandchildren. His funeral will take place next week in Boynton Beach. A memorial service is being planned in New York City for March, family members said. Visitation will be held Tuesday, February 19, 2013 from 2:00pm to 4:00pm and 7:00pm to 9:00pm with a 7:30pm scripture service at Lorne and Sons Funeral Home. A funeral mass will be held Wednesday, February 20, 2013 at 10:30am at St. Marks Catholic Church (643 NE 4th Ave, Boynton Beach, FL 33435).

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