Bobby Goodale was remembered for his generosity, intelligence and devotion to his family and community during a service in celebration of his life Sunday at Old Steeple Community Church in Aquebogue.
Mr. Goodale, 72, whose full name was Jesse Robinson Goodale III, died Thanksgiving morning at Peconic Bay Medical Center following a lengthy stay there.
Earlier in the week, his widow, Dhonna Goodale, had issued a statement listing the many businesses, charities and community activities he was involved in.
“Bobby truly epitomized community service,” it read.
Mr. Goodale served in numerous capacities at Peconic Bay Medical Center, was a former president of the Riverhead Chamber of Commerce, a former chairman of the Suffolk County Planning Board and a past chairman of the Riverhead Development Corporation at the Enterprise Park at Calverton, which screened potential uses for the property.
Many community members and relatives spoke Sunday, including Mr. Goodale’s sons, Jesse and Jared, and his brother, Edgar, who shared memories of his brother growing up.
Often, speakers became choked up at they spoke, fighting back tears.
“At that time I never really understood what he was all about,” Edgar said. “He was the one with his nose in a book, a French horn on his lips, a tennis racket in his hand and, in his head, a brilliant mind that would serve him the rest of his life. He graduated from high school top of his class.”
He had a degree in political science and, Edgar said, would say that he couldn’t have gotten a degree in anything that would pay less than his political science degree.
“Bobby stated this to me. He never complained,” he said.
Bobby worked at Riverhead Building Supply, the family business, for over 30 years, but his passion was politics, his brother said. Whether it be local, state, federal or foreign politics, Bobby knew about it.
“His knowledge of events and the people involved seemed endless,” Edgar said. “I would ask Bobby, ‘Who is that person who is waiting for a particular office?’ and without hesitation, he would speak eloquently of the person‘s resume and how wonderful the person was and then state he doesn’t have a chance in hell of winning. He was always correct.”
Edgar said his brother missed his real calling, as a diplomat.
“He was a consensus-builder, someone who could bring common sense into a situation that was spiraling out of control.”
Mr. Goodale’s son Jesse, whose full name is Jesse Robinson Goodale IV, said it’s best to describe his father in different ways.
He was a scholar who tutored his sons in history and English and was an adjunct professor at Suffolk County Community College.
“He appreciated not only learning, but teaching,” Jesse said.
He was a joker, who would also keep a light mood, and he was a practical, realistic person who loved playing chess.
Jesse said he challenged his father in chess, saying he would get a trophy if he won.
“A normal parent would let their child win,” Jesse joked. “He was not a normal parent. I never did beat him in chess … he wanted me to work for things because he knew that I wasn’t going to get everything handed to me, and I’m glad that I did learn that lesson.”
His brother, Jared, recalled that his father loved news and sports.
“I would come into the kitchen so many times where he’d be watching Rachel Maddow, or I would catch him watching the Yankees and getting mad because the Yankees were losing,” Jared said.
“People used to say that I got a Harvard education right at home and I believed that. He taught me so much,” Jared said. “There’s a saying that God puts the heaviest burden on those that can carry the weight, and I believe that. Even though he’s physically gone, he’s always going to be around.”
Attorney John Ciarelli recalled working with Mr. Goodale on Riverhead Building Supply issues.
“He was a person of intelligence and sensitivity,” Mr. Ciarelli said. “It should be no surprise that one quickly realizes he’s an intelligent and thoughtful person. It was obvious that I was interacting with somebody who was smarter than I was.”
Helene Schneider, Mr. Goodale’s niece, said, “Uncle Bobby was my political science teacher. He was the go-to guy when I was growing up and had some questions about a current event or something related to government … I know he loved Mario Cuomo. I don’t think he liked Ed Koch.”
She recalled that her uncle “was an investor in big dreams. Especially ones that were long shots.”
“Bobby was such a wonderful man,” said Dr. Chandra Jones, Dhonna Goodale’s sister. “I don’t have to stand here and tell you all the things he’s accomplished in his life because you already know those things. But I can tell you about a deep, deep love affair that only Bobby and Dhonna shared, and that turned into two glorious young men.”
Mr. Goodale is one of the few people who received News-Review People of the Year awards more than once. He was the 1992 Person of the Year in Riverhead, and co-winner of the 1994 Civic Person of the Year, along with downtown business owner Barry Barth.
“He had the heart of Riverhead in his mind all the time,” Mr. Barth was quoted as saying of him in 1992.
Bobby’s father, Jesse Goodale II, was the News-Review’s first Person of the Year recipient in 1988.
Jack Kratoville said Mr. Goodale was very active in Old Steeple Church over the years, but that he was amazed by how many other things he was involved in, which were detailed in the obituary.
“I don’t know how he found time for all of these,” Mr. Kratoville said.
Bobby Goodale was buried at Aquebogue Cemetery, on Main Road opposite Old Steeple Church, and town police stopped traffic so his casket could be carried across the street, followed by a lengthy procession.
Top photo caption: Mourners at the Sunday service for Bobby Goodale. (Credit: Tim Gannon)