It was David Goulette’s rich bass singing voice that first caught Carol Carver’s ear at a choir audition decades ago. It was his almost-heavenly organ playing at worship services, weddings and funerals in Stillwater and Bayport that captured the community’s awe and admiration over more than 40 years, say those who knew him.
“He was just a phenomenal natural musician. He could play anything I put in front of him,” said Carver, director of worship and music at Trinity Lutheran Church in Stillwater, and Goulette’s musical boss for more than 30 years. “He had a true love of music and a love, I think, of worship.”
Goulette, 83, died April 19 of COVID-19. Until falling ill in mid-March, he’d been “incredibly active,” said his son Mark Goulette. In addition to playing on Sundays at Trinity, he played at two area retirement homes, worked three days a week at a mortuary in St. Paul, delivered Meals on Wheels — and walked his dog twice a day.
“Then, boom. It hit,” his son said of COVID-19.
It started with him “feeling a bit woozy,” Mark Goulette said. Days later, he was taken to a hospital in Stillwater, then transferred to Regions Hospital in St. Paul. After 19 days on a ventilator, he seemed to get better, Mark Goulette said. But his lungs were damaged and “his system just quit.”
Goulette was a fourth-generation Bayport resident who graduated from Stillwater High School in 1955. After briefly attending St. Olaf College, he went to work at Andersen Windows and stayed 46 years before retiring in 2000. Over the years, he passed on his love of music to his sons and continued to share it with his community. Recently, he played organ at a wedding and the bride was the third generation of her family whose weddings were accompanied by Goulette.
Renowned for his ability to learn and play a wide range of music, he was breathtaking to watch, said the Rev. Chris Bellefeuille, pastor at Trinity. “This is a man whose hands and feet could just fly over that organ,” she said. “He was talented at a level that’s just really rare.”
But his love was the classical music of worship, Carver said — “the tried and true hymns.”
Goulette is survived by his sons Mark of Roseville, Paul of Bayport, Jamie of Hudson, Wis., and Steve of Stillwater, and a sister, Mary Moravec of River Falls, Wis. Goulette, who was adopted, learned of his birth family about 15 years ago and is survived by birth brothers Bill Fox of McGregor, Minn., and Gary Fox of East Bethel, and sister Linda Hutton of Luck, Wis. He was preceded in death by his wife, Carolyn, and birth brother Richard Navratil.
A public memorial is planned for when the expected crowd can once again gather at church.