Tag Archives: Jim Goodrich

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).

Is This A Great Town Or What?!

Just before 10 a.m. today, I posted a story about Tutti’s. A few minutes earlier, alert “06880” reader Roger Schwanhausser told me the popular Saugatuck restaurant was suffering. Last week, a driver crashed into the front window. Plywood covered the damage. Many customers thought Tutti’s was closed.

At 11:36 a.m., reader Jeff Kaufman commented: “they should post a big ‘OPEN’ on the plywood.”

Four minutes later, I responded: “Or maybe an artistic type could volunteer to paint ‘Open!’ and make it look really nice — not like graffiti.”

At 12:36 p.m., Mina de Haas — the subject of a recent “06880” story about local artists with in-home studios — wrote: “I think I know just that kind of person! 🙂 ” 

At 3:26 p.m., Jim Goodrich sent this photo:

Tutti's is open!

It’s now 4:29 p.m. It’s not even dinner time.

But when you get hungry, you’ll know where to go.

61 Runs Down Arapahoe — In 1 Day

Last week — as many Westporters headed to warm climates, and the ones who were here welcomed spring — Jim Goodrich headed west to ski country. He was there to watch the amazing, incredible — well, let Jim tell the story.

Arapahoe Basin (aka “A Basin”) is one of the oldest and highest ski areas in Colorado. It is also a place that is glitz-free, geared to hard-core skiing.

Since 1989, A Basin has run a unique charity ski race that is tough, inspirational, heartfelt and has room for humor.  “The Enduro” lasts for 10 straight hours, beginning at 7 a.m. and ending at 5 p.m.  This year’s race was run last Wednesday (April 17) during Colorado’s biggest snowfall of the season. Temperatures were in the single digits.

33 teams of 2 each line up parallel to the chair lift, with their equipment 20 yards in front. On a signal they run to their skis or snow boards in a “Le Mans” start, then dash to get on the lift.

The start of Le Mans -- er, Enduro.

The start of Le Mans — er, Enduro.

Team members had to ride the lift together after each “lap” — up and down the mountain — and at the end of the race had to check in with officials before the clock ran out.

My wife (Luisa Francoeur) and I were there to watch her son and my stepson, Andrew McWilliams (Staples Class of 2002, and now the accounting auditor at A Basin) compete with a teammate. We were Andrew’s “pit crew,” getting food and water to them as they blasted back to the lift to begin each lap.

Andrew and Kyle finished 61 laps. With a total vertical of more than 70,000 feet (that’s twice from the summit of Mt. Everest down to sea level), they had a good day. Not quite as good as 2 professionals on the ski racing circuit or Andrew’s housemate who is on ski patrol, but something to be happy about.

Jim Goodrich and Andrew McWilliams.

Jim Goodrich and Andrew McWilliams.

Even the teams that were “in it for fun” did well. 2 nurses from Denver  laughed the whole time, and were distinguished by skiwear that included tutus.

At the celebratory dinner and silent auction, the money raised was announced and gratefully accepted by the recipient: a young mother who recently had a cancerous tumor removed from her brain.

The fun of the day stood in stark contrast to the anguish in Boston.  But it made sense, as people came together to help a young family through difficult times.

The $3 Million Elephant — Or $8 Million. Or $30 Million

Last Sunday, retired businessman and 35-year resident Jim Goodrich offered some thoughts here on the town budget — including the pension liability.

His “06880” piece elicited strong reactions — including several explanations of the pension fund.  Today, Jim addresses those responses.

You’re never too old to learn.

By going to the recent Board of Finance meeting, thinking about that meeting, then posting observations that generated considerable feedback, I’ve picked up a bit more understanding about my town.  I find it useful.  Maybe you will too.

I called the pension fund “elephant in the room” a $3 million problem.  Is it really an $8 million problem — or $30 million?

The answer is:  It’s all 3 problems.  Here’s — in rounded numbers — is why.

The $30 million refers to an unfunded shortfall in the town’s obligation to the pension fund for municipal employees.  (Teachers are not included; they’re covered at the state level.)

The $8 million refers to the annual amount the town must pay for the next 30 years, in order to fulfill its pension obligations.

Now it gets really interesting.

The $3 million represents a reduction to the $8 million annual payment the actuaries say the town should pay into the pension fund.  Why would Westport pay only $5 million of the $8 million into the fund, creating a larger long-term obligation?

This is not where our pension fund is. We hope.

The answer is pretty straightforward.  By underpaying the pension fund, town and Board of Ed budgets can be more fully funded without having to raise taxes as much, or at all.  Of course, the amount of the underpayment must be paid someday — just not now.

There are all kinds of discussions knowledgeable people can have on this point — and much of the subtext at the recent Board of Finance meeting dealt with this issue.  What seems to be going on is “fiscal responsibility” versus “competent resource management” in balancing important community needs and the taxpayer’s ability to pay.  The BOF is the place these discussions should take place.

Currently, town and school officials are finalizing details to show what a total of $2.6 million cut in funding will mean to educational programs, as well as vital services.  The public does not yet know the exact cuts to be made — but they are expected to be serious.

What does “serious” mean?  It could easily be headcount cuts to police, fire and teaching personnel, plus public works and all other town departments.  What may get hit are all the “S”s – safety, security and schools — as well as Westport’s large “Q” (quality of life).

So pay attention.  We may know within a few days what the cuts will bring.  By Wednesday the BOF will have voted — and then it’s a done deal.

For a moment, consider what would happen if the BOF went in another direction and simply reinstated the $2.6 million to the town and school budgets.  Would the world come to an end?

No.  But taxes would go up by an average of about $260 for each Westport household.  There are 2 people in my household.  That’s $130 for each of us for the year.  It’s $2.50 a week — 36 cents a day.  For safety, security, excellent schools and quality of life — I don’t know about you, but it seems like a bargain to me.

(What do you think?  To contact the Board of Finance, click here.)

A $3 Million Elephant

Jim Goodrich is a retired businessman and a 35-year resident of Westport.  His 3 children are graduates of the Westport school system.  Here are his thoughts on this year’s town budget — and his solution.

In trying to resolve a single budget issue, the Board of Finance has created a host of problems far more significant than the one they have set out to fix.  There may be other ways to remedy the situation.

Attending the review of the Board of Education budget by the Board of Finance was disheartening.  I was disappointed because significant reductions to a well received and well thought-out budget were made, and the reduction did not square with my personal values.  The disheartening part came from statements made by certain BOF members that indicated to me that some of them understand little about how the school system operates.  They may not even believe in public education.

I understand how town officials can also feel frustration.  Cutting police and fire headcount, for example, is pretty draconian stuff.  When you have the first selectman talking about being forced to cut vital services, and the schools talking about cutting educational programs, you feel the divisive battle lines being drawn.

Is this the way it must be?  I certainly hope not.  But I think we have been brought to this juncture as a result of less than effective leadership by the Board of Finance.

The $3 million elephant in Westport's budget room.

The BOF apparently believes that its only job is to keep taxes flat or low, and they have found a way to do so by “spreading the pain” – but at a cost to the fabric of the community they serve and that we all live in.   The BOF may feel that its job is done and now they can pass the problem down the road to the RTM that will have to resolve a serious set of issues.

Somehow we’ve come to this point without a good look at the elephant in the room:  a town pension liability of $3 million that needs to be funded.  The BOF may think it has handled the issue by cutting expenses by about $3 million.  But from another viewpoint they have created a host of other significant problems, while superficially solving the one they most feel responsibility for.

The pension issue is real, and because it is a town liability, it is also a taxpayer liability.  We taxpayers own the liability and have to pay it.  The essence of the BOF’s decision is that we taxpayers must pay for our liability by cuts in essential services.  Those cuts means a dirtier town that is less secure, with an educational system that is less than high quality.

In other words, the only “win” for the taxpayer is to continue to pay low taxes as compared to neighboring towns.  In every other respect we taxpayers “lose.”  I’m not pleased to think that a stretched police or fire department might not be available for my emergency, or that our schools may not do for today’s students what they did for mine.

I believe that if you have a complaint or a problem, you have a responsibility to try and resolve it.  I do not believe that cuts to key services is the way to solve the liability we taxpayers own.  I do believe there are things that can be done.  I offer a couple of possibilities that are more of a rifle shot aimed at the proverbial elephant in the room, as opposed to destroying the house with the elephant in it.

The most simple-minded suggestion is to raise taxes to pay for the liability of $3 million.

A variant of the first is to create a tax surcharge targeted at the liability, and payable over a defined period of time.  Taxpayers who are unable to pay the surcharge could be eligible for relief through a program similar to that offered to seniors (a deferral of tax until the taxpayer’s home is sold, or the tax lien is otherwise paid off).

Create a tax-exempt, interest-bearing bond for the $3 million liability that could be purchased by taxpayers (or, perhaps anyone) and paid back to investors over time. My parents bought me war bonds when I was a child, and savings bonds later.  Why not Westport Bonds and Minute Man Bonds?

“Our” liability has a defined size and scope, and we can end it.  If the clever people involved with the Westport Country Playhouse could raise $30MM to fix a facilities problem, perhaps some of them would lend their considerable “bling” to help fix a one-time budget problem.

How?  Hold a “Retire the Debt” fund raiser.  Buy a kid a piece of a fire truck, police car or classroom.  Sponsor a teacher, a firefighter, a cop, a police dog.  If you like golf, sponsor a fairway or one of the greens.  You want waterfront property?  No problem, you can have your own section of Compo beach. Then let’s recognize and celebrate those who have taken part.

Hey, this is Westport.  We’re smart, generous and creative.  Given the choice between a poke in the eye with a sharp stick (read “cuts in essential services”) or a pat on the back (read “my own section of Compo Beach”), I know what I’d choose.

So come on, Board of Finance:  Hunker down and think of something more uplifting than “shared pain.”

You’re Westporters.   You can do better.