Godfrey, Howard Warren Jr.
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Howard W. Godfrey, Jr., 85, of Mesa, passed away on Nov. 11, 2012, after a long illness. He was born in West Roxbury, Massachusetts on Jan. 13, 1927 to H. Warren and Ruth Magdalene Godfrey. After serving a short stint in the U.S. Navy (which he joined at 17 by forging his birthdate), he moved west with his parents. He attended Arizona State University where he majored in Poker, Pinochle and Pitch, and an occasional engineering class. He was employed at the O.S. Stapley Company and Williams Air Force Base. In 1946, he met a young Mesa High School junior named Betty Jo, and made an honest woman out of her the next year. Following the birth of their first child four years later, Howard was hired by the City of Mesa as a draftsman and was quickly promoted to City Planner/Community Development Director, a position he held for 35 years. At that time, Mesa had a population of 17,000, and Howard single-handedly ran the Planning Department through the 1950s, guiding Mesa's rapid growth through the next three decades. During his 20s, he was an active member of the Junior Chamber of Commerce and received the E.W. Jones Award in 1952 as Mesa's Outstanding Jaycee. He and two friends were well-known throughout the valley for his pantomime group "The Nightmares," who performed regularly at various functions. In 1956, he joined the Mesa Hohokams and was a mainstay at the VIP ticket booth at the Chicago Cubs and Oakland Athletics Spring Training games, first at Rendezvous Park, then at Hohokam Park. He served as "Big Ho" in 1979-80, and was with the organization for more than 56 years. He always looked forward to being with "his guys" every March at the ballpark. Howard headed the United Way in 1966 and continued his support of the non-profit for many years. He was instrumental in the development of the Dobson Ranch area in 1973-74 and was the recipient of the Mesa Rotary Club's "Four-Way Test" Award in 1981. He retired from the city in 1987 and he and his wife built and moved into their new home at Painted Mountain Golf Course. His retirement years were full of golf, Pitch games, family, friends, travel and Dominoes. During this time, he served nine years as President of the Mesa Historical Society, and he and Jo were active members of First Presbyterian Church. His favorite past-time (and a lifelong passion) was woodworking and he was happiest when he was in his shop, where he created beautifully-crafted items, including three "hopeless" chests for his daughters. His Boston roots instilled in him a love of Early American furniture and he was master of the art. Many of his pieces grace the family home. He was preceded in death by his parents Warren and Ruth Godfrey, sister Phyllis Bliss and brother-in-law George Bliss. Howard is survived by his beloved wife of 65 years, Jo; his three devoted daughters, Karen (John) Hautman of Fairbanks, AK, Pam Godfrey, and Diana Johnson of Mesa; four grandchildren, Nick & Molly Hautman and Casey & Storm Johnson; nephew George (Sheilah) Bliss of Mesa; and countless friends. He truly loved them all. Services will be held at 3:00 pm Monday, Nov. 19, 2012 at The First Presbyterian Church of Mesa, 161 N. Mesa Drive. A reception will immediately follow at Hohokam Park. The family would like to thank the wonderful and caring staffs at Desert Blossom Health & Rehab Center, Eden Adult Care Home and Grace Hospice. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to the Child Crisis Center or Mesa Presbyterian Ministries.
Published in The Arizona Republic on Nov. 14, 2012