Middlebury mourns the loss of former town clerk Dick Goodro
MIDDLEBURY — Friends and former colleagues of longtime Middlebury Town Clerk and Treasurer Richard “Dick” Goodro recalled him as a warm human being, jovial jokester and tireless worker who was a walking encyclopedia.
Goodro died on Friday, Feb. 22, at age 75 at his home in Ormond Beach, Fla. (click here to read his obituary). He succumbed to the effects of pulmonary fibrosis, according to family members.
News of his passing hit hard in Middlebury, where he seemingly knew everyone.
“I would call him the ‘mayor of East Middlebury,’” longtime attorney and former Selectman Karl Neuse recalled with a chuckle.
“He was a great guy.”
East Middlebury is of course home to Goodro Lumber Co., the family business where Dick worked before embarking on his long career of public service.
It was in March of 1976 that Goodro prevailed in a contested election for Middlebury town clerk and treasurer. He defeated then-incumbent Clerk/Treasurer Kenneth Caul.
“It was a surprise to everyone when he won, including Dick,” recalled Beth Dow, who at the time worked in the town clerk’s office. “I was told that when the ballots were counted the night of the election and it was announced he’d won town clerk by 15 votes and town treasurer by 100 votes, Dick just kept saying over and over ‘Oh my God.’”
Dow has a particularly vivid recollection of that race. Kenneth Caul was her boss and her uncle.
“The next morning when Dick arrived at the office, there were some awkward moments… but it never impacted how well we worked together as a team in that office,” said Dow, who served with Goodro through the late 1970s, when she transferred to the position of secretary for Middlebury’s planning and zoning department, listers’ office and recreation department.
“He was pretty ‘by the book’ when he arrived, but eventually he relaxed and learned to enjoy the job and the constant flow of customers who came in daily,” said Dow, now Middlebury Town Manager Kathleen Ramsay’s administrative assistant. “We had a wonderful staff back then who all got along, and Dick fit right in. I think if there’s one thing about Dick that comes to mind immediately, it’s his sense of humor and his ability to come up with one-liners for just about anything — a good deal of the time at my expense.
“It was very hard for me that morning in 1999 when I swore in Jon Pominville as the new town clerk after Dick retired,” she added. “Dick was a hard act to follow.”
Middlebury Police Chief Tom Hanley agreed. Hanley has never forgotten how Goodro helped him learn the ins and outs of Middlebury when he was hired to lead the force 28 years ago.
“Dick would just brighten up your day stopping by the clerk’s office,” Hanley said. “(He had) a perpetual smile and always, always a little story or vignette that would bring a smile.”
He created some of those smiles through entertainment. Goodro was an avid thespian with the Middlebury Community Players.
“I know he would always be rehearsing his part in some performance or another,” Hanley said.
And Goodro could make any location his stage.
Former Vermont Gov. (and current Middlebury Town Moderator) James Douglas noted Goodro would use his acting talents to humorously embellish examples of real-life interactions between town clerks and their customers. He made the show an educational tool he’d take on the road to town clerk conferences, Douglas recalled.
“He called himself the ‘clown-jerk,’” Douglas chuckled in remembering the self-deprecating Goodro, who was never afraid to make fun of himself.
Goodro was quite the hit around Halloween, according to Hanley.
“He coaxed me into joining him for three years at Doctor Fifield’s haunted house on Three Mile Bridge Road,” the chief recalled. “This is where Dick, in costume, got to ham it up. He loved acting and he loved the arts.”
But comedic qualities aside, Goodro knew how to get down to business, according to those who knew him.
“While he had a wonderful nature and a good sense of humor, he was also very serious about his position,” Hanley said. “It’s easy to forget that aspect of Dick, because he was so enjoyable to be around. He would not tolerate disruptive behavior from anyone who came into the office and he ran the office efficiently. He was affable, but always the consummate professional.”
Former Middlebury Town Planner Fred Dunnington echoed that observation.
“He would work long hours until he got things done,” said Dunnington, who recalled frequently seeing the lights on in Goodro’s office at night.
Current Middlebury Town Clerk Ann Webster began her long run in office in 2001, after Jon Pominville resigned. Goodro helped Webster become acclimated to the rigors of the office.
“Dick came in and gave me a crash course in ‘land records 101,’” Webster said. “He worked a few weeks for me serving customers at the window while giving me tips and pointers. His mentoring gave me time to get my feet under me and get organized.”
Webster was given frequent reminders of the extent to which her predecessor was loved and respected.
“When overseeing elections, it took a long time before my election officials came around to accepting me and my way of doing things compared to Dick,” she said. “I was reminded frequently that I did not do things quite like Dick and that he even would sing songs or do a little dance to entertain them during slow periods at the elections. He even told jokes, at which I was a big disappointment.
“I think I finally won their hearts when I gave them more comfortable chairs,” she quipped.
Goodro’s devotion to the town and his studious nature helped him absorb a ton of facts about Middlebury and its environs. Those who showed up at his service window would invariably get their question answered, or at least be directed to someone who could.
Goodro was able to showcase his vast knowledge at the annual Middlebury Community TV trivia contest. He’d regularly beat opponents to the buzzer and almost always delivered the right answer.
After retiring as clerk in 1999, Goodro worked briefly at the National Bank of Middlebury.
He and his wife Daryl, who enjoyed a 54-year marriage together, moved to Florida several years ago but often returned for visits. They raised three children and have 10 grandchildren.
While Goodro enjoyed the spotlight on stage, he didn’t do a lot of bragging off of it. And he had quite a bit to crow about. He and Daryl through the years welcomed many foreign exchange students and educators into their home.
Among them was Savic “Sasha” Rasovic, a Yugoslavian student whom the Goodros hosted for the 1990-1991 academic year. Sasha graduated from Middlebury Union High School in 1991, only to return to a country wracked by civil war. Goodro helped Sasha get out of Lithuania and into Middlebury College.
“He cared about the community and all who lived here, and he served us well for a long time,” Douglas said.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected]
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