Deceased February 21, 1999

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In Memory

Edward J. Godek Jr. died Feb. 21. He was the manager of Cumberland Farms in Russell. Born in Holyoke, he graduated from South Hadley High School in 1968 and Amherst College in 1972. He was a lifelong resident of South Hadley and a communicant of St. Patrick’s Church. He belonged to Knights of Columbus Council 4044 in Chicopee, where he was a past grand knight, a former district deputy, and a fourth-degree member of the Archbishop Williams Assembly. He was a delegate to the Supreme Knights’ convention in 1995. He leaves his wife, Diane; a son, Edward J. III,; his parents, Edward Godek and Philomene (Bach) Godek; two brothers, Dennis of Glastonbury, Conn., and Kevin of South Hadley; and a sister, Louise Siwy of Easthampton.

Diane called me early Saturday morning. They had been watching TV at home Friday night; Ed suddenly fell over. Diane’s mother, a retired nurse was there; she administered CPR, but to no avail. Ed had gone down as the result of a massive aneurysm in his frontal lobe; he never regained consciousness, and died Sunday. Just like that, he was gone.

Six or seven hundred people showed up for the wake; the funeral mass was standing room only. At least 100 went to the gravesite in a driving snowstorm to pay their last respects. They all described Ed the same way: a quiet, unassuming guy with an unexpectedly wry sense of humor. A guy who would help anyone who asked. A dedicated family man and parishioner.

While all of that is true, I remember a somewhat more … what’s good word for it, rambunctious perhaps? … Ed Godek. It never dawned on me until it happened that I would have to write Ed’s obituary, and as I sat down to do it, try to capture the man, my recollections came back in a series of seemingly unrelated flashbacks. I seem to recall a water pistol/Phisohex bottle skirmish on third floor Stearns in which a number of people engaged, but in which Ed and Seth Briliant starred. I seem to remember Ed’s gaining early fame among the brothers of Psi U for his participation in the creation of a very tasty—but very sneaky—punch. I have visions of late night trash ball (in which crumpled up paper served in place of a basketball, and the sconces in the foyer at the Psi U house were the baskets) and table ball (ping pong ball, big round table, two couches in the living room at the house) tournaments. Seems to me that Ed was there when the bottle rocket fusillade was let loose on the house next door. There were a number of toga parties, Gammy U proms, fall weekends and turkey parties. There were the Greco-Roman wrestling matches that were staged at the bachelor party we threw for Rich Borton ’72 and Gary Haag ’72 in Pond Annex.

I also remember an Ed Godek who was willing when it wasn’t convenient, or wasn’t his turn, or was just plain painful. He joined the bar cleanup crew even when he wasn’t in the rotation. I vividly recall him joining me—both of us burdened with brutal hangovers—early one Sunday morning to pick squash in the truck garden of one of the campus cops.

When Ed left Amherst, he did something that very few of us understood. Instead of heading for the “bright lights” that presumably beckoned graduates of arguably the best college in the country, Ed went home—figuratively and literally. After he and Diane married, they moved into—and to the day of his death lived in together—a house that is only 100 yards from the one in which he grew up, and in which his parents still live. He put his family—all of them—first. “Career” was a means to an end; his family, his community and his friends were the purpose of the exercise. And judging from the people who came to reflect on how he had touched their lives, he was very good at it.

Despite the pressures of the “real world,” Ed retained his core values; he was an honest, self-effacing man, who put in a day’s work for a day’s pay, who loved and supported his family through good times and bad, who believed he had a responsibility to do what he could to make the world a better place—in a word, a gentleman. There are damned few left; Amherst should be proud to number him among its graduates. I am privileged to have been his friend.

We’ll miss you, Ed. Colleague, gentleman, and friend—we are all saddened and diminished by your loss. Rest in peace.

John Keene ’72