When Mike Kelly was mayor of Fife, he and other city officials would get frustrated with the bureaucracy that accompanied each move they wanted to make – a frustration summed up by fellow Councilman Richard Godwin.
“(Godwin) would always say, ‘I want to get this project done, I don’t want to make a career of it,’” Kelly recalled Tuesday.
Godwin lived in Fife for most of its 56 years as a city. He moved there in 1970, built his home and raised his family there, and watched with dismay the city’s transition from farming community to industrial suburb.
An activist who often appeared before the City Council, he was elected to the council in 2003 and served until Monday, when he died at his home. He was 68.
“Richard moved to Fife when he came out of the Navy in ’69,” his brother Al said. “In those days Fife was mostly cornfields, raspberry fields – it had a dairy – and he loved the tranquility.”
“He even farmed a bit, raised his own beef, had a garden.”
Rob Cerqui came to the council the same year Godwin was elected.
“He was a great guy, outspoken, a man who was quick-witted and would state his opinion,” said Cerqui, who became mayor last year after edging out Godwin on a 4-3 council vote. “Whether you agreed with him or not, you knew Richard always had the best of intentions for his city.”
Though he rarely spoke of it, Godwin had been a member of the Navy’s Underwater Demolition Team – a precursor to the Navy SEALS – and served in Vietnam. He worked for years after that as a telephone company technician and troubleshooter.
“He was misperceived to be a big, gruff guy,” former mayor Barry Johnson said. “Dick cared for community, was passionate about issues and people, and that came out at council meetings.
“We didn’t always see eye to eye, but you could disagree with him, even have a heated argument, and when it was over, still be friends.”
Among Godwin’s passions in Fife was the city’s Daffodil Parade float, an annual project he spent hundreds of hours working on – along with other volunteers he dragged into the fray.
“He absolutely loved doing that, and he suckered me into helping him build it one year,” his brother said.
The 2008 parade theme was “Remembering Your First Daffodil Parade,” and Godwin embraced it. The Fife float that year had rotating ice cream cones, Cracker Jack boxes, giant peanuts, puppies and a clown.
A mannequin of a small boy watching also stood on the float.
That boy could well have been a young Richard Godwin.
His parents had taken him to the Daffodil Parade in the early ’50s. “I remember the clowns selling Cracker Jacks and popcorn,” he recalled back in 2008.
Born in South Tacoma, the Godwin boys grew up in poverty.
“Life was tough. Our dad was an invalid, our mom worked the night shift at Western State Hospital,” Al Godwin said. “As soon as he was old enough, Richard had a News Tribune route, and I followed as soon as I was old enough. Whatever we made, the family needed.”
As a councilman, Richard Godwin never forgot those early years.
“There were those who advocated charging user fees to everyone who used city parks, for soccer teams using city soccer fields,” Al Godwin said. “Richard said ‘no!’ He said he knew some families couldn’t afford that.”
Long divorced, Godwin is survived by two grown children, son Earl and daughter Lisa.
And many friends throughout the city he made his home.
“We’d have coffee, just hang out,” Johnson said. “Last summer, he helped me build a patio. One time we had an older couple on the block with one of those monkey puzzle trees, and it was out of control, causing problems.
“They couldn’t do anything about it, and I mentioned it. Dick said ‘I’ll warm up the chain saw – let’s get it done.’ And we did.”
Al Godwin said he’d always remember one part of his brother’s personality.
“He’d never lie to you, but you might not like what he said,” Al Godwin said. “He lived life his way.”
Services are pending, but good friend Kelly suspects one thing.
“It won’t be a church service,” he said. “Richard probably wouldn’t have gone to it.”Larry LaRue: 253-597-8638