Jim Goodrich, a community figure known for a lifetime of hard work, generosity and ever-present cowboy hats, died at his home on Thursday, July 16. He was 94 years old.
Jim Goodrich’s younger brother, Bob Goodrich, said Jim was inspired from a young age to keep others from going hungry.
“We moved off the farm when I was seven, and the older kids, including Jim, (sometimes) went hungry,” Bob Goodrich said. “He went hungry and he made up his mind that if he could help it, nobody was going to go hungry, and that’s just what he did.”
As with all other things, once Jim Goodrich made up his mind, nothing could change it. He would go on to raise a sprawling garden and donate thousands of pounds of fresh produce to food banks, senior centers and church food banks over the years.
Goodrich’s dedication to his goal was a mix of kind-hearted empathy and sheer stubborn force of will.
“If he formed an opinion years ago, that was his opinion,” Bob Goodrich said. “We tried to buy him a cell phone… He never used it, never picked it up. The funny thing was, he switched all his material up on the pipelines with computers… it’s not that different.”
Jim Goodrich’s charitable tendencies may have also stemmed from his work ethic. After completing an eighth-grade education at Truro Public School, he worked on several farms before joining the Great Lakes Pipe Line Co., (now Williams Brothers Pipe Line Co.) in his late teens. The job eventually brought him to Washington County, living in Riverside before moving to Wellman.
Goodrich was forced to retire after 41 years with the Williams Brothers, when an injury from a car accident required back surgery. While pipeline maintenance was hard work, it wasn’t enough to satisfy Goodrich, who always needed something to stay busy.
“If he could work three jobs he would, and he always tended bar even when he worked for the pipeline,” Bob Goodrich said. “Every year he got six weeks of vacation, and he would always contract out with a construction company or somebody, and he worked every one of those days… He needed to be busy all the time.”
Goodrich’s hard work paid off in more ways than one. He met his future wife, Donna, while bartending in Iowa City. The two would eventually move to a 55-acre spot in Wellman together, fulfilling a lifelong dream of Jim’s once he perfected the property with its own fishing pond.
Goodrich put the extra space to good use. He raised an array of livestock alongside countless green beans, tomatoes, potatoes and locally renowned turnips, which the Wellman Advance called “bigger than softballs” in 2007.
Most of the homegrown food was donated to the Osceola Senior Center, the Wesley House in Iowa City, or church food banks. The generosity didn’t stop there, however. Bob Goodrich said his brother kept a “garage full of miscellaneous stuff,” mostly appliances and furniture acquired at auctions, which he routinely gave away to anyone in need.
“I have a garage full and people know it,” Jim said in a 2008 article from the Washington Evening Journal. “They can come for it. Whether it’s a stove or a blender, I have it.”
Goodrich was renowned for volunteer work alongside his charity. He made a habit of providing free transportation to Iowa City, and was among the first volunteers to deliver for the Meals on Wheels program in Wellman.
Despite his exterior ‘my-way-or-the-highway’ attitude, Goodrich was humble at his core, though he would never openly admit it.
“He just didn’t want to be pretentious; he didn’t wear a suit any of the time except to go to church and he quit that too,” Bob Goodrich said. “He said ‘I don’t think people should be discouraged from going to church because they can’t dress nice,’ so he certainly did not.”
On the afternoon of July 14, Jim Goodrich walked into The News office with a 2-inch thick scrapbook in hand, saying “I figure I’m something of a legend around here, and someone ought to write a story about me.”
He agreed to wait for a call back within the week to set up an interview and went about his day.
On July 16, he loaded several items into a van, eagerly preparing for a much-anticipated move to Kalona, before answering a call from one of his sons and another from an auctioneer, saying “my doctors are really going to be mad at me today, I think I overdid it.”
It was the last time anyone spoke to Jim Goodrich. He died at his home in Wellman that night, where he was later found by his family.
Goodrich left behind a legacy of compassion in the face of hardship. His scrapbook contained countless certificates of appreciation, thank you cards and hand-written letters, all voicing gratitude to a man who did anything to help those in need.
“There’s that old saying, it’s better to give than receive, that’s what motivated Jim,” Bob Goodrich said. “Somebody asked him some time, he said ‘why do you do that,’ and he said ‘I never gave it a second thought.’ It was just his nature; it was just the way he was.”