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Wayne Goodwin’s secret was ability to adapt, change

Wayne Goodwin with son Doug and grandson Pauley.

“His master replied, ‘Well done! You are a good and faithful servant’.” — From the Christian Bible

“A stepparent is so much more than just a parent; they made the choice to love when they didn’t have to. Dad never treated us like we were a package deal, something or someone he would have to accept if he wanted our mom in his life. We weren’t a burden in his eyes, we were a bonus.” — Leslie Thompson on her stepdad, Wayne Goodwin

The accolades have been pouring in for the late Wayne Goodwin, who died last Tuesday of complications from pneumonia and Covid-19.

Many had high praises for his impact on young men in the community as a football coach, for his leadership at the United Church of Wayland, for his booming baritone voice he used by request at special occasions, and just generally as an all-around kind and decent man.

My admiration of Wayne Goodwin after all these years is a little different. After 65 years of knowing him up close and personal, I have marveled at his uncanny ability to adapt to changing conditions to develop the personal traits for which so many have expressed appreciation.

So many have remarked lately that he was a kind, gentle man. That overlooks his history of being the classic rough, tough and gruff member of “The Greatest Generation” from years gone by.

Wayne Goodwin grew up during “The Good War” and never lost his keen interest in how great the United States indeed was during that era. He told many tales on Saturday nights over more than a few beers about trolling for scrap metal in the 1940s, playing football for Cliff Gettings at Battle Creek Central, being a proud member and president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers local and doing the right thing by not being afraid to “man up.”

Wayne Goodwin and daughter Nita O’Callaghan.

As kind and gentle as Wayne Goodwin was, he was old school, with a proud attitude similar to that of Gen. George Patton. In fact, he and I locked horns often on the issue of the war in Vietnam during the 1960s and on the issue of wearing long hair.

We got through that trouble, the Generation Gap, and I couldn’t help but notice that he did a lot of serious thinking about it all and finally came to the conclusion that Vietnam was seriously different than World War II. He figured out that indeed Vietnam was having a civil war and we should have stayed out of it. And he wasn’t afraid to acknowledge it.

Wayne Goodwin grew up in a household that was deeply racist, but overcame that disease through the years because of friends he made and friends his children made, not to mention relationships with some of his players.

Wayne Goodwin very likely chimed in on hurtful pranks and jokes about LGBTQ people, but was big enough to quietly get over those prejudices and eventually embrace all people.

He told me he voted for Barry Goldwater in 1964, but was a solid Democrat thereafter, often because of his unshakable belief in the welfare of working people. He told me with glass in hand and monocle at ease, that company officials through the years lied to him and he never got over his mistrust of corporate CEOs, based on moral principles.

He was a tough old guy, but his kindness was legendary. Most important, he learned from history and made attitude adjustments throughout his life that made him the special character he was.

He was a long-suffering fan of the Detroit Lions, Detroit Tigers and the University of Michigan football and basketball teams. And he was a devoted fan of Roy Orbison, Creedence Clearwater Revival and Charlie Daniels Band.

It’s been said that the best things in life actually are special and unforgettable moments. Though he had plenty of them with his seven children, his grandchildren and with his wife, I submit there is one that particularly stood out for him above all the rest.

In late summer 1974, he suffered an on the job injury from a fall and was hospitalized. He came back to the land of the living on crutches to watch Wayland High School play at Hudsonville on the latter’s football field.

He watched son Doug pull off a game-winning pick six (interception return for a touchdown) with just three minutes left, perhaps every athlete’s dream development.

I’ll never forget watching him hoist his crutches and scream at the top of his lungs with that unforgettable and formidable baritone voice.

Through it all, he was the eternal optimist, with sayings such as, “This too shall pass,” “There isn’t anything that a Bromo (Seltzer) won’t cure” and “Can you climb a pole?”

And just like his wife, Doris, he would probably say his greatest satisfaction was not having to bury any of his children or grandchildren.

COVER PHOTO: Wayne Goodwin (seated) and his seven children (from left) Leslie Thompson, Kelly Dennis, David T. Young, Gilbert Goodwin, Doug Goodwin, Mary Chrisman and Donita O’Callaghan.

1 Comment

  • I worked with Wayne for a while and he was Indeed One of a Kind. I’ll never forget that Man, Wise, Generous, Thoughtful and Always there with a Kind word. Very few like him.

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