Fire chief recalls fun traditions

Published 12:07 am Saturday, December 1, 2018

Editor’s note: The Suffolk News-Herald is sharing Christmas memories of local people throughout the holiday season to promote the Cheer Fund, which collects donations to purchase toys for local children on Christmas.

Fire Chief Michael Barakey is new to the Suffolk Department of Fire & Rescue, but he has been living in Hampton Roads since he was 7 years old.

His Christmas memories from his childhood include lots of fun family traditions as well as giving to others, he said.

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“The biggest thing I remember is we would go to church on Christmas Eve and then we would get Chinese takeout,” he said. “That was our traditional meal, believe it or not. It’s a memory I’ll have forever.”

His father was in the U.S. Air Force, and the family moved to Hampton Roads in 1980 and settled in the Kempsville area of Virginia Beach.

Barakey had three siblings — a twin brother, younger brother and older sister. The family used to string popcorn and cranberries to put on the live Christmas tree, and they also enjoyed going to Coleman’s Nursery to walk through and see the Christmas village and all the other decorations.

His favorite gift was when he received a simple soccer ball around age 10, he said. “It’s probably the greatest gift I ever got,” he said.

But the family’s most important tradition involved giving to others. Their church had an angel tree, and each member of the family picked out an angel to shop for.

“It’s very important for everybody to give,” Barakey said.

Now that Barakey has a family of his own, which includes a 16-year-old daughter and a 14-year-old son, he has continued some of the traditions, including the live Christmas tree.

“We go get a live tree every year, usually the weekend of Thanksgiving,” Barakey said.

However, he has been unable to get his kids to buy into the concept of Chinese takeout on Christmas Eve.

To donate to the Cheer Fund, send a check to P.O. Box 1220, Suffolk, VA 23439, or bring it to our office, 130 S. Saratoga St., from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Visit the Suffolk Cheer Fund on Facebook to find an online giving link.

We will list your donation in the newspaper, but it can be marked “anonymous” if you like. Donations may be made in honor of or in memory of someone. If you bring the check to our office, we’ll even take your photo as you hand it to one of our staff.

For more information on the Cheer Fund, call 934-9609.