Regular readers of our letters section might recall the name Joaquin Godoy. By my count he has written The Augusta Chronicle 31 letters to the editor since moving to Aiken, S.C., in 2002, but it seems like a bit more. He also has written a couple of guest columns for us.
He called so often that I instantly recognized his phone number on my caller I.D. at work.
The last call I got from that phone number is one I never wanted to pick up.
It was from his wife, Karin, to tell me that Mr. Godoy passed away the day after Thanksgiving. He was 86.
She called, she said, because she knew her husband would have wanted me to know. She was right. I wouldn’t have known, either, because Mr. Godoy wanted no obituary or memorial service.
Fortunately, he didn’t say anything about a Sunday column.
SOME LETTER WRITERS make it onto The Chronicle’s pages more than others – not because the paper plays favorites, but because they simply write more letters.
Mr. Godoy was one of those writers. Even when he wasn’t writing letters, he still sent me mail – often clippings from other publications. He was a voracious reader of The New York Times, The Economist and The New Yorker.
The last letter, postmarked just three days before he passed, contained a recent Robert Dallek op-ed from the Times titled “What Made Kennedy Great,” about one of Mr. Godoy’s favorite subjects, John F. Kennedy.
As our correspondence developed over the years, Mr. Godoy would drop little facts about himself that I found fascinating.
He was born in Cuba, spending most of his professional career as an insurance executive. He also participated in the underground resistance against dictator Fidel Castro before and after Mr. Godoy fled Cuba in 1961.
As a teenager Mr. Godoy’s parents sent him to complete high school at the prestigious Jefferson School near Natchez, Miss. Until the school disbanded in the 1960s, it was the oldest U.S. military school after West Point. Jefferson’s most famous graduate was the president of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis.
HE WAS AN Olympic athlete, competing in the 1948 Olympics in London as a rower for Cuba.
His grandfather was the director (I suppose that’s like a publisher) of what was for decades the largest and longest-running newspaper in Cuba, Diario de la Marina.
He met the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
He had more than enough great stories and insights to write a book – and he did, but printed just a few copies for family and friends.
The Godoys moved to Aiken in May 2002, and before the month was out he had written us his first letter to the editor, taking issue with an editorial we had written that was critical of former President Jimmy Carter.
Politically, Mr. Godoy and I didn’t agree on a lot – he was unabashedly liberal – but he exuded a genuine dignity that I respected greatly. He loved the give-and-take of debating an issue. I’ll always remember his sunny courtesy.
When Mr. Godoy was a child, he asked his father about the mysteries of heaven and hell. He never forgot his father’s reply: “If people remember you as a good human being, you will be in heaven.”
I have no doubt that’s where Mr. Godoy ended up.