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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).