Riverhead Building Supply co-founder Jesse Goodale dies at 97

Jesse Goodale. (Credit: Goodale family courtesy photo)
Jesse Goodale. (Credit: Goodale family courtesy photo)

A giant in the Riverhead community has passed away.

Jesse R. Goodale II, who founded Riverhead Building Supply along with his brother, Harold, and uncle, Peter Ketcham, on Ostrander Avenue in 1948, died Saturday morning at the age of 97.

The company currently has 11 locations throughout Long Island and Rhode Island. It’s one of the leading employers of the area and has continued to be one of the most generous local businesses that frequently donates to community events and projects.

Mr. Goodale’s involvement in the community goes beyond his building supply business.

Over the course of his life, Mr. Goodale served as president of the board of directors at Central Suffolk Hospital, which later became Peconic Bay Medical Center and as president of the Riverhead Chamber of Commerce. He served on the Suffolk County Historical Society Board and Riverhead Board of Education.

Mr. Goodale was also a director for Long Island State Bank, which loaned money to Riverhead farmers. He was the Peconic Bay District Boy Scouts’ 1987 Man of the Year Award recipient and active in the Old Steeple Community Church in Aquebogue where he also volunteered to maintain its cemetery.

He was also the Suffolk County chairman for the Salvation Army.

Carol Goodale Cambi, Mr. Goodale’s daughter, said her father suffered from dementia and died at home 6 a.m. Saturday morning.

Ms. Cambi said she has found memories of her father’s giving nature.

“He would do things like ring the Salvation Army bell in front of Caldor,” she said. “He was a very energetic person who could never sit still.

“He was an amazing man.”

Mr. Goodale’s granddaughter, Laura Goodale VanHouten, described her grandfather as “a great role model.”

“He took it upon himself to get things done in the town,” she said. “He taught me many life lessons. You never wanted to disappointment him.

“I don’t know how he found the time he dedicated his life to the community.”

Ms. Cambi and Ms. VanHouten said they’re also proud of Mr. Goodale’s efforts to make Riverhead a better place, such as founding Riverhead Litter Control in 1987.

Ms. Cambi said Mr. Goodale took it upon himself to pick up litter that piled up near the hospital and Route 58 traffic circle.

At one time, the group had about 250 volunteers cleaning the streets of Riverhead on a regular basis. Mr. Goodale himself was usually seen picking up litter himself, seven days a week, despite being in his 70s at the time.

He said at the time that he felt that his work with the Litter Control Volunteers was one of his proudest accomplishments.

Even after he stepped down as leader of the group in 1992, he could still be seen picking up litter, in a pickup truck with a sign that read: “Don’t Trash Riverhead – 15 Days in Jail.”

“My idea is to motivate others,” Mr. Goodale said in a 1992 interview for a News-Review story about the litter patrol. “If they see I’m doing it, it’s easier for other people to do it. You’ve got to be visible. I can’t sit still. I’ve got to be doing something.”

Mr. Goodale, a lifetime Riverhead Town resident who was born on a farm in Aquebogue, received the Riverhead Chamber of Commerce’s “Lifetime Achievement Award” in 2012.

East End Arts executive director and chamber board member Pat Snyder said at the time he won the award the she described Riverhead Building Supply as a “reflection of its founder.”

“He has lived a life of honesty, integrity and community and it shows,” she said.

Mr. Goodale received the North Fork Environmental Council’s “Environmental Citizen’s Award” in 2002 and in January of 1989, he was the first-ever recipient of the News-Review’s Person of The Year Award in 1988, an award that continues to be issued annually.

“Jesse Goodale’s public accomplishments stand so large because he is able to instill in other people the civic pride that has moved him during a lifetime of community involvement,” the News-Review wrote at the time.

Mr. Goodale was a major supporter of Central Suffolk Hospital, having been president of its board of directors when the east wing of the hospital was built and helping to raise money for the hospital for more than 20 years.

“Jesse is blessed with the rare ability to see a job that needs to be done, the energy and enthusiasm to tackle it and the know-how to see it through,” former CSH CEO Joseph Turner said of Mr. Goodale in a 1989 interview.

He was predeceased by his wife of 68 years, Mary Lupton Goodale, who died in 2010. They have five children, Edgar Goodale, Jesse “Bobby” Goodale III, Russell Goodale, Carol Cambi, and Diane Sadowy.

There will be a wake for Mr. Goodale on Sunday, Dec. 21 from 3 to 7pm at Tuthill Funeral Home in Riverhead. The funeral is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Monday at Old Steeple Community Church in Aquebogue.

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