Jack Goodwin started writing about sports at the Minneapolis Star newspaper right out of college, hired as a summer replacement. As he liked to tell it, at the end of the summer no one told him to stay and no one told him to leave, so he stayed — for the next 41 years.
Goodwin died on Nov. 27 at his home in Highland, N.Y. He was 91.
Goodwin had newspapers in his DNA. He was selling them at age 11 on the streets of Chicago, and reported for the newspaper at Palatine High School where he graduated in 1944. Then it was on to the U.S. Army and service in Europe during World War II, where he wrote for a military newspaper.
When Goodwin returned to the U.S. and attended Carleton College in Northfield, he met Ann Daly — who became his wife in late 1950 — while working at the campus newspaper. In his final years, life came full circle, and every day he voluntarily took the newspapers dropped at his apartment building and delivered them one by one to the doorsteps of subscribers.
“He was the kindest, gentlest man I ever knew,” said his wife, who taught journalism and was a columnist and editorial writer at the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “Newspapers were his life, along with his family.”
The couple had three children and also became foster parents for another 13 teenagers spread over a 10-year period. “One time we had seven teens living with us at the same time,” Ann said, including her own children. “It was a lively household, and taking those kids in was the best thing we ever did.”
Ann Rest, a Minnesota state senator who has known Goodwin for decades, said it’s difficult to talk about Jack without talking about him and Ann together. “They had one of the most enviable marriages and partnerships and friendships of any two people I have ever known,” she said.
Outside of his newspaper jobs, Rest said Goodwin loved sports, reading, opera, birding and travel, and entertained family and friends at a lake cabin in Wisconsin.
Steve Brandt, a retired Star Tribune reporter who knew Goodwin for more than 40 years, said Goodwin in his later years visited elderly shut-ins to play cribbage and share companionship.
“He was a cribbage player but turned it into a mission of social kindness,” Brandt said.
In the newsroom, Goodwin wrote about a variety of sports, including Minnesota Vikings football during much of its first decade. To the delight of his son, also named Jack, that meant trips with his dad to Vikings training camp, and memories of playing catch with famed quarterback Fran Tarkenton and other players.
Jack Goodwin said his father and his mother were truly equals in their marriage, and modeled that behavior with a strong dose of unconditional love for their children. His father also was a strong believer in allowing people to live their own lives, he said.
“He was strong in his convictions and opinions, but he expressed them very quietly,” Jack Goodwin said. “He was a man that could be counted on to do the right thing.”
Goodwin left sports writing after 20 years and moved into news, where he was front page editor for a decade and an assistant news editor for 11 years. He retired in 1991.
“He was a great mind and he was so competent and calm in the storm of a newsroom,” said Marilyn Hoegemeyer, a former assistant features editor who worked closely with him. “In the chaos that happens while getting all these things on deadline, he would look up over the rim of his glasses with a twinkle in his eye and you just knew everything was going to be OK.”
Survivors also include two daughters — Nancy Beranek of Port Ewen, N.Y., and Joan Swearer of Thompson, Conn. — and one grandson. Services have been held.