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Epilogue | Jesse Goodman

As long as he could, Jesse Goodman outran old age

PALM HARBOR — Jesse Goodman never thought of himself as an old man.

While the other nonagenarians at his retirement community compared maladies and griped about getting older, Mr. Goodman cracked jokes about his hearing aid and counted the days to his next birthday party.

He planned talent shows for his neighbors and wore Mickey Mouse ears to cheer up the sick.

He didn't exercise, didn't diet, didn't take any special vitamins and long after his body and mind began to fail him, he refused to talk about death.

Mr. Goodman was enamored with the business world and became vice president of a Hawaiian company that created clothing lines for hotels and airlines. Acquisitions, meetings and marketing tactics were his Botox.

"Work was his hobby," said his son, Doug Goodman, 59. "That's what kept his mind active."

He retired to Clearwater about 20 years ago, but refused to succumb to the banality of retired life. He volunteered for the Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Pinellas County SCORE Chapter, a free counseling service for small businesses.

When his wife began to volunteer at the Morton Plant Hospital gift shop, he followed her.

For 15 years, he cheered up patients as part of the hospital's clown troupe. He didn't want to dress up, so he wore a pin that read "plain clothes clown division," and put on his Mickey ears.

He assembled a cart full of Marx Brothers movies and Saturday Evening Post cartoons and pushed it into patients' rooms.

"He said if it wasn't for comedy and having a positive attitude, he wouldn't have survived into his 90s," said Leslie Gibson, founder of the hospital volunteer program called Comedy Connection.

If someone wasn't in the mood for comedy, he asked them about their life and he told them about his: three heart attacks, two children, one hip replacement.

He was aghast when his son suggested he and mom move into Stratford Court, a Palm Harbor retirement community.

"He couldn't understand people who would bemoan the fact that they were such and such age and they just felt so old," said his wife, Betty Goodman.

At Stratford, Mr. Goodman founded a knitting group, set up a concierge desk for residents with questions, posted jokes on the bulletin board, organized a birthday card pool and launched an annual comedy show.

"His philosophy was 'you've got these senior citizens sitting around and they are so bored they just count their toes,' " said Marianne Brauning, the activities director at Stratford Court. "He would say, 'count your blessings, not your toes.' "

At 92, Mr. Goodman could no longer outrun old age.

His memory abandoned him. Some days, he thought he was on a cruise. On others, he said he was in business meetings. Then he forgot his son's name.

His daughter, Diane, died of liver cancer in December, and he never knew.

In his last week, Mr. Goodman could no longer recognize his wife of 66 years.

He died on a Thursday, his hair white and his skin wrinkled.


Jesse Goodman

Born: June 1, 1916.

Died: Jan. 15, 2009.

Survivors: son, Doug Goodman; wife, Betty Goodman, two grandchildren; one great grandchild.

Services: private.

As long as he could, Jesse Goodman outran old age 01/20/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 20, 2009 10:23pm]
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