Remembering Jim Goodrich

Jim Goodrich was aptly named. He was one of Westport’s true good guys. And he led a rich, varied and very meaningful life.

Jim died last week, of cardiac arrest. He was being treated for acute myeloid leukemia, and had a bone marrow transplant from his daughter Lisa. He was 75 years old. 

Jim’s wife — native Westporter Luisa Francoeur — with his daughter Lisa Page and stepsons Ryley and Andrew McWilliams offer this loving remembrance.

Jim had a big heart which encompassed a wide variety of communities, and which embraced him in return. He is fondly remembered as someone who genuinely cared about others, and went out of his way to render assistance.  Sometimes this was to his detriment, as illustrated by an episode in Colorado when he enthusiastically helped push a stranger’s car out of the snow – only to tear loose his bicep and cut short his vacation.

After retiring from a career in business in and around New York City, Jim started a new career in the Westport schools. He began at Bedford Middle School. After several years he moved to Staples High School. For the next 15 years he was a beloved substitute teacher, mentor, coach, and sports super-fan.

One of the first communities he found for himself at Staples was as a volunteer coach of the wrestling team. He drew on his experience as a college wrestler at Ohio Wesleyan University (where he was never pinned until his last match!), and get down on the mat with students 50 years his junior.

Jim’s involvement in the Staples community was broad and deep. He served as coach of the sailing team, advisor to the Challenge Team and Barbecue Club, a firm but caring Advanced Placement test proctor, and organizer of fan buses and cheers for the boys’ soccer team.

Jim Goodrich loved the Staples boys soccer team — for which his 2 stepsons played. Long after they graduated, he was exhorting fans at Loeffler Field to cheer for the Wreckers.

Jim was born and raised in New Jersey. After graduating from OWU in 1965, and a stint in their admissions office, he served his country from 1966 to ‘69 as an Army lieutenant in the Canal Zone.

He rose from company commander (overseeing over 250 men) to operations and training, where he was responsible for 1,500 indirect reports at the battalion level. He executed his assignments with distinction, and was awarded the Army Commendation of Honor. Jim was a true officer and gentleman, and earned the love and respect of his troops.

His time in Panama opened Jim’s eyes to different ways of life in the world. He embraced the opportunity to spend time in Latin America and on the water, cementing lifelong passions for travel and boating.

Jim and Luisa took many trips together to locations near and far-flung. They sailed and powerboated, crisscrossing the Northeast with fellow Saugatuck Harbor Yacht Club members. Jim’s love of sailing was so strong that as soon as he learned his daughter was pregnant with his first grandson, Jim bought a small catboat on which to teach him to sail.  In 7 years he’ll be big enough to enjoy it.

Jim’s love of life — and genuine joy in everyone he met — extended to one of his side gigs: marriage officiant for choice friends and loved ones. His preparation, insights and loving demeanor made the weddings he officiated special not only for the newlyweds, but all who attended.

Jim spent time every summer since 1951 on Cape Cod, in a cinderblock cottage built by his parents on land gifted to them by parishioners of his father’s church.  Every year his family made the trip north from New Jersey, passing through Westport. The views of the Saugatuck on that route called him to move here in 1975. Westport was his home ever since.

Jim Goodrich

In addition to his wife and stepsons, Jim is survived by his daughter Lisa Page and her husband William; grandson Nicolas, and Jim’s sister Beth Millikan.   Jim died after receiving a stem cell transplant from his daughter in a valiant effort to, as he put it, “extend a happy life.” Indeed it was, and will be so remembered.

A memorial service is set for the Unitarian Church, 10 Lyons Plains Road, Westport on December 1 at 11 a.m. A reception will follow at Saugatuck Harbor Yacht Club, 6 Great Marsh Road.

Click here to leave condolences for the family. In lieu of flowers, donations in Jim’s memory may be made to Hudson River Community Sailing (P.O. Box 20677, New York, NY 10011; http://www.hudsonsailing.org); the Freedom of the Press Foundation (601 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco, CA 94102; http://www.freedom.press), or Staples Tuition Grants (P.O. Box 5159, Westport, CT 06881; http://www.staplestuitiongrants.org).

6 responses to “Remembering Jim Goodrich

  1. Andrew Colabella

    I remember meeting him in 5th grade at Bedford Middle School in riverside avenue. He was respected so highly and everyone listened to him, even when he was strict because he was right but fair.

    I hoped to see him staples and I did occasionally subbing once in a while. He was a counselor, an aide, a teacher, a coach, but patient and willing to help. And somehow as I grew up I’d always run into him in town and he got to see me grow. Last time I saw him was at Longshore for the Rotary club wine event, and finally got to catch up. He was an asset to Westport Public Schools and this town. I’ll miss him deeply.

  2. Dan: Thanks for posting this. Jim was a lovely, thoughtful, generous man. Jim and Luisa are dear friends of ours and mine was one of the weddings that Jim officiated. It was a wonderful ceremony, all Jim’s doing, and people said it was the best wedding they’d ever been to. All credit goes to Jim!
    We will miss him terribly.

    Jill Delaney

  3. I met Jim when I became Principal of Staples High School and he was a substitute teacher. I quickly learned that he wasn’t doing it for the money. He was there every day because he loved getting to know Staples students. He understood the importance of a positive high school experience in shaping people’s lives and wanted to contribute. Years later when my I told him that I was going to marry my longtime partner Rodger, he volunteered to officiate. What a great decision we made to accept his offer. Our friends and family still talk about the ceremony almost five years later.

  4. I am devastated to hear about Jim. He was a breath of sunshine and confidant in business for me, always a cheer leader and positive and loving force. My heart goes out to Luisa and his daughter.
    With love,
    Cory D’Addario

  5. There was a solidity, playfulness and kindness in Jim that everyone could feel. In a real life version of It’s a Wonderful Life, I think many of us would cast Jim in Jimmy Stewart’s role. If you get a chance, I recommend asking health teacher Kelly Shamas to send you a PSA a group of her students did a few ago– Jim’s expression in it steals the show and exemplifies his joy-filled energy.

  6. Very sad news.
    Can you think of someone who you were always happy to see? For me, that was Jim.
    No member of the public had a stronger influence on my Board of Education work than Jim. I would always hear from him when he agreed with my positions and when he did not. – and when he disagreed, he was usually right. He made me a better BOE member.
    Jim’s wrestling knowledge also help guide my son’s time on the mat at Staples. Same thing for their work at Longshore Sailing.
    I can’t think of anyone with more gravitas or who commanded more respect than Jim.
    A great loss for the town. My condolences to his family.

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