Thursday, July 10, 2008
Paul Martin Goff was born June 12, 1927. He died August 13, 2005. He was my father. The words come slowly now as emotions work their way to the surface.
Paul's father, Andy, was a foreman for the Southern Railroad. His mother, Nellie, had a second grade education. He had three brothers and one sister with whom he remained steadfastly close all his days.
The Goffs migrated to Cincinnati from Somerset, Kentucky so that Andy could work on the rail. Paul was born in Ludlow, in the section house where his family lived until Andy' retired. The section house was owned by the railroad, and that was a good thing. The depression hit the family hard, and they could never have afforded a home of their own. They lived in extreme poverty, but they had it better than most. Andy, at least, had steady work. Nellie was home alone with the children. She was a strict disciplinarian and was known for her redheaded temper. Times were different then. Things she used to control her children would not be tolerated today, but not to fear, her children turned out just fine.
She believed in rearing her children on the Word of god. The children attended Ludlow School, and were all raised in the First Baptist Church of Ludlow. Andy was a strict Southern Baptist, believing strongly in the need for the cooperative association among churches. Andy wore his perfect attendance church pins proudly. All the Goff children would grow to be avid church going evangelicals, especially Paul.
It's hard to imagine what life must have been like for the Goffs, being so poor. Paul used to talk about the day his elementary class went to the Cincinnati Zoo. He wore a winter wool suit. He said he nearly roasted, and some girls made fun of him because it was spring. He said he cried the rest of the day. It was the only suit he had.
Paul joined the U.S. Army in 1944 after his brother, Richard, was wounded during the kamikaze strike of the U.S.S. Morrison. He entered the Army at 16, and got to see most of Europe. He was an MP in Italy immediately after the fall of Mussolini. That's a subject that was off limits for discussion unless he mentioned it first.
When he came home from the service, he asked Reba Webb to marry him, and after a two year engagement, they married on April 29, 1950 at the First Baptist Church parsonage. Paul worked for the Southern Railroad, like his father before him. During a slow time when he was laid off from the rail, he sold insurance which he hated. When he went back to the rail, he spent 37 years there.
In 1960, Paul moved his family from Ludlow to Burlington. By this time he had a two year old daughter (me.) He bought an 800 sq. ft. red brick house. He fenced the yard, and built patios and flower beds. He planted trees and kept his property looking better than anyone else's in the neighborhood. The backyard was Paula's Playground. At one point, he had built a swing set, a slide, a merry-go-round, two different kinds of seesaws and a swimming pool. There were more toys in our backyard than at the elementary school playground. (I always wondered if other kids came to see me or to just play with my toys.)
There wasn't anything I couldn't get if I caught Paul in just the right mood. His goal was very simple: He wanted his daughter to have everything that he didn't have as a child. He worked everyday so that my life would be easy. He attended every play I was ever in, and he insisted that I learned to read music. He encouraged me in anything I ever expressed interest. Band, drama, choir, dance and baton twirling were all things he supported, emotionally and monetarily. He loved my friends. His favorites had to be Leslie Berkshire, Claudia Nevel and Teresa Smoot. He loved Bonnie Reed too, but she was more like another daughter as her family lived next door.
Paul lived a good life. He said so on his death bed, even though he had spent the last 20 years of it in and out of hospital after hospital. He started out with throat cancer whereby he had a laryngectomy. His beautiful tenor voice was silenced, but he could still coach me. He then entertained a bout with prostate cancer, followed by congestive heart failure and diabetes. Finally, lung cancer took him home.
Even in the last 20 years of his life, although sick and somewhat feeble, he managed to "see the USA in his Chevrolet." Paul & Reba, along with our next door neighbors, Mabel & Darrell Reed, his boyhood fishing buddies, John D. & Frances Love, and Bea & Larky Smith, spent six weeks each summer travelling to different parts of the country. When John D. was the first of the crew to pass away, Paul lost much of his amusement for life.
He rallied in 2000 when his daughter was appointed Property Valuation Administrator of Boone County by then Kentucky Governor, Paul Patton. The night before assuming that position, Paula married Phil Christy. When Phil built a house in Bracken County and the brick was finally on it, Paul could rest easy, knowing he had left Reba in good shape and Paula had Phil. On Saturday morning, August 13, 2005, Paul went to Heaven. He is missed more than any one person should be, but everyone knows where he is. He left the world a better place for having been here. That's more than most people can ever say.