Paul and Kathleen Goodwin grew up on different sides of the continent—Paul in Hollywood, and Kay in the New Jersey commuter belt. While a student at Stanford, Paul had worked side-by-side with senior scientists in the physics department whose research spawned the Stanford Linear Accelerator—the longest linear accelerator in the world. Kay was a musician who played the bass viol—an instrument that was nearly twice her size—in her high school’s orchestra and with the New Jersey All-State Orchestra and the West New York-New Jersey Symphony Orchestra.
Both were descendants of Pilgrims who voyaged to America on the Mayflower. One of Paul’s ancestors was Gideon Wells, Secretary of the U.S. Navy, who served as a cabinet member during the Presidencies of Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson. Kay traced her ancestral line to William Seward, Lincoln’s Secretary of State, the man who purchased Alaska for two cents an acre in 1867. According to historians, Wells and Seward loathed each other.
Paul and Kay met in 1946 when Paul traveled to New York City to conduct WWII research. Their mothers had been childhood friends and made certain that the two young people met. In many ways, Paul and Kay were an ideal couple. He brought a clear-minded and practical engineering approach to the marriage, while Kay contributed her love of music and the arts. Their different personalities and interests ensured that they spent many of their 70 years of marriage engaged in lively discussions with each other.
Both Kay and Paul led deeply fulfilling lives. Before her marriage, Kay worked for Sylvania Electric Products in New York, advancing from secretary to home-lighting consultant. She was a member of the Illuminating Engineering Society and helped draft post-World War II residential lighting standards for the industry. After she moved to California with her new husband, Kay earned an amateur radio license and served as secretary of one of the largest female ham radio-operator clubs in the U.S. She sold two books to major U.S. publishers and was a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. She was also a devoted painter, photographer and world traveler—hobbies she enjoyed sharing with Paul.
Working at the forefront of scientific discovery, Paul was a member of JPL’s worldwide Deep Space Network group, tracking and communicating with Apollo spacecraft missions from 1963 to 1972 as part of the team that brought Neil Armstrong’s famous “one giant leap for mankind” message to the world. He also planned tracking support for the Helios Project, a sun-orbiting unmanned spacecraft, and developed support plans for the Soviets’ Venus Balloon experiment—a top-secret project that was conducted at the height of the Korean Airliner crisis.
When he retired, Paul purchased an RV and he and Kay took off on a 10,000-mile trip around the United States. They also enjoyed extensive international travel, including a cruise of Russia’s Volga River, a hair-raising train trip along Mexico’s Copper Canyon, and an Antarctic cruise that crossed Cape Horn during gale force winds.
Although Paul and Kay were longtime members of the La Canada Presbyterian Church, when they were finally confronted by rapidly failing health in their mid-90s they turned to someone outside their faith to help them explore the universality of the end-of-life experience. For more than a year, they opened their hearts to Rabbi Carla Howard as they discussed the most profound components of their spirituality and the blessings of lives well-lived. With Rabbi Howard’s support, Kay and Paul approached the end of their lives with equanimity and courage.
Throughout this time of illness and loss, Paul and Kay received exceptional hospice care from the Jewish Healing Center of Los Angeles. She also provided indispensable solace to the entire Goodwin family, and particularly to me, their daughter and primary family care giver. Under Rabbi Howard’s guidance, I began to redefine my own spiritual path as I prepared for the loss of my parents. I was so profoundly moved by this experience, and by Rabbi Howard’s compassionate caregiving for the entire family, that I welcomed the opportunity to serve as a member of the JHCLA Board of Directors.