A true original has left us. Gordon Godfrey weighed anchor and headed for the 19th hole in the wee hours of March 28th, 2023. He was surrounded by his family, and we spent his last afternoon sharing with him an imaginary round of golf that was taking place in his head, mostly at the 4th and 5th hole of the Vashon Island golf course. His wit and sense of humor were intact until the last. His wife, Jane, announced that she had just hit a hole-in-one, and he informed her that she hit the ball into the wrong hole. A competitor to the end.
Gordon was born on May the 4th, 1935, in Bremerton, Washington to Tommy and Gert Godfrey. Sometime during Gordon’s seventh year the family packed up and relocated to Vashon Island where his parents established a cobbler’s shop. Many old-time Island residents still remember this shop with great affection. Meanwhile Gordon occupied himself with various odd jobs, and generally did his best to make the Island a more interesting place for his friends and neighbors. There is little doubt that he succeeded in this endeavor.
He joined the Navy, and somehow, through a series of events involving the draft that are somewhat unclear in the family chronicles, he wound up in the Army. After his service to the country, he became a Union electrician, a career that gave him great satisfaction, and which he enjoyed for as long as he was physically able.
It is no wonder, considering the environment that he grew up in, that Gordon’s life was in many ways defined by his love of the waters of the Salish Sea. Fishing, crabbing, or just generally puttering around the Sound were among his greatest joys. Even when indulging in another of his favorite pastimes, golf, he still managed to find the water occasionally. It was a shared love of the water and boating that led him to meet Jane in 1978, and that was the beginning of a wonderfully odd love story that endured for the remainder of his life, and beyond.
When he met Jane, he found in her a kindred spirit. They married in 1981, and they created a home for their conjoined families on Vashon. A few years later they moved north to La Conner and fell in love with the waters of the north Sound and beyond. Through rough waters and calm they shared decades of laughter, adventure, and love with each other and their families on the moderately high seas of Puget Sound. Photos of their many boats are displayed in the home that they shared nearly as prominently as the photos of their children. Make of that what you will.
Trying to untangle Gordy and Jane’s interwoven family tree would make an arborist weep. Two sons, Gordon Jr. and Matthew, preceded him in death. He is survived by his son Tom and his daughters Amy, Marcie, and Carrie. Between them, Gordy and Jane have accumulated a menagerie of 10 children and stepchildren, 22 grandchildren, and a number of great-grandchildren that has never really been accurately tabulated, primarily because they never hold still long enough. To his grandchildren and great-grandchildren, he was known simply as “Bubba”, the big man with the big voice and the bigger heart.
Their family always included their pets. A long line of dogs and cats were their constant companions, some of whom were mighty fine sailors and travelers. Gordon liked to talk pretty tough about his pet, but he was putty in their paws. His frequent proclamations that “We ain’t getting another damn dog” was invariably followed by the arrival of another damn dog. The latest example of this is Sugar, an appropriately named Golden Retriever who they rescued from a puppy mill. Gordy could often be found, when he thought no one was watching, slipping treats to his assorted pets and talking baby talk to them in a way that was frankly embarrassing to see in a grown man.
If you ever met Gordy, you were probably his friend. If you were to ask how he got on with strangers, I would have to say that I really could not tell you, because as far as we all know, he never met one. Venturing out on a brief errand with Gordy was fraught with peril, because 15 minutes could easily become 45 minutes once he started talking to someone. And he usually started talking to someone.
Gordon loved people, and he loved doing things for people, particularly his wife, Jane. He was never happy without a project in the works for their home, and was a skilled craftsman. Their home today bears little resemblance to the house that they moved into long ago. This is mostly a good thing. His friends and family also reaped the benefits of his many deeds of service. If you needed a hand with any project, large or small, Gordy would be there. This did not necessarily mean that the project would get done any quicker, but you were guaranteed some great conversation and a lot of laughs. If you were planning to make a major purchase, like a vehicle or an NFL team, all you had to do was tell Gordy and sit back. He would research your projected purchase and you would begin to receive a steady stream of emails covering brands, ratings, quality, performance, price, and how many sets of golf clubs it could carry. He would have made a great horse trader.
This could go on and on without capturing the man. He was a rogue and a romantic, and in another time he might have captained a privateer or been a Viking chieftain, provided that Vikings dropped a couple of crab pots prior to raiding an English village, and played a quick nine holes after. Gordon was larger than life. His oversized warm personality, his booming laugh, and his absolutely unique sense of humor were gifts to us all. His love and fierce devotion to his family was a thing from another, simpler, time, and will be greatly missed by those who were within his embrace.