"Grandpa Gooch" 1918-2014|
Salt Lake City, UT-On the evening of April 17, 2014, this world released the claim on one of its most loving and caring servants, Gilbert Edmund Gooch. As a skilled teacher, every child he met was considered a precious treasure, and every adult was regularly lauded with heartfelt compliments. His soul exuded love!
From an old schoolhouse, converted into a home where the Gooch family resided in Ogden's north-western suburb of Marriott, Utah, Gilbert began his life's journey on February 20, 1918. He was the fourth child and third son (of which the eldest, Joseph Dean, had died in infancy) born to Joseph Henry and Martha Ritchie Gooch. Two additional girls would join the family within the next three years' time. Shortly thereafter, his mother took ill and died, leaving her young brood of five children in the care of their bereaved father and nearby relatives. Gilbert, five years old at the time, soon found the family moving to Riverside, Idaho, to be nurtured by their paternal grandparents.
After completing his public schooling, Gilbert enrolled in the University of Idaho Southern Branch (now, Idaho State University) in Pocatello, where he competed in track-running the mile, and cross-country events. His coach deemed him as "the most persistent fellow," which aptly defines his entire 96 years of life. Upon completing the college's requisite two years to enter the education workforce (1937-39), he secured a teaching job at Osgood School in Idaho Falls, teaching 3rd and 4th grades. Although somewhat latent, a passion for teaching children was instilled before Gilbert turned his focus on other interests, for a short time, joining the United States Army Air Corps (forerunner of the U.S. Air Force) in 1941. Upon completing his training in the Army Airways Communication System, he was accepted into Officers Candidate School in Miami, Florida, for a very strenuous 90-day course in leadership. However, with only five days remaining in his coursework, Gil received a harsh blow from his commanding officer (and an outright disqualification for promotion) with the declaration, "You grin too much!" Yes, Gil's innate happiness could not be restrained-which has been a lifelong blessing for all who have come to know him.
At the height of World War II, Gilbert served mainly in the Pacific Theater, specifically in the Philippines. By 1944, he was advanced to Chief Control Tower Operator with direct charge over the training of 35 Army Corpsmen in similar pursuit, and reassigned to the Army base at Santa Rosa, California. On the first weekend in March, 1945, Gil was sent by train to an executive training meeting in San Bernardino, California. Through divine intervention, while visiting an LDS Sunday meeting, he met the girl of his dreams, RoeAnn Sampson. They were married in the Salt Lake Temple just two weeks later!
After Army discharge in 1948, Gilbert rekindled his dormant dream of becoming a school teacher by enrolling in night classes at the University of Utah. During this era, he worked numerous day jobs to support his growing family, including teller at Zion's Bank, bookkeeper with the LDS Church, as a civilian in the personnel department at Hill Air Force Base, night watchman at American Foundry, parking lot attendant, usher at numerous sporting and entertainment events (including the state fair's 11-day run of "Holiday on Ice" and "Ice Follies" at the old State Fair Coliseum), to name a few. His most recent evening job has been taking tickets at Kingsbury Hall, well into his 90s.
With a newly-earned bachelor's degree in 1956, Gilbert landed a teaching job in "Special Education" at Lafayette School in downtown Salt Lake. Some two years later, he engaged in additional educational training to become a professional speech pathologist/audiologist, serving the entire Salt Lake School District, in which capacity he served until retirement in 1980. Several years before retiring, he received a Master's Degree in Speech and Hearing from the University of Utah, and subsequently spent his evenings teaching English the following years.
Upon retiring from teaching school at the age of 62, Gilbert immediately returned to his lifelong passion of sharing stories with children, this time as a volunteer in a select few kindergarten classes, primarily at Meadowlark Elementary, where he shared his own stories (found in his self-published book, "Sound Effects"). During his 30 years of service, an estimated several thousand children came to know and love their "Grandpa Gooch." Based on this prolific and dedicated volunteer service, Gilbert received the prestigious Huntsman Education Award of "Volunteer of the Year" in 1998, at the age of 80! His volunteer efforts continued until age 92, when a fall from a low ladder rung sent him to his final, and beloved, abode at the Salt Lake Veterans Home.
Gilbert's one claim to fame was his short lived television show on KUED, in the late 1960's, where he hosted the show "Listening with Lester." The premise of the show was to help children with their speech patterns. Unfortunately it was cancelled after ten episodes. He also made an unsuccessful bid for the State House of Representatives shortly thereafter.
As a faithful member of the LDS Church, his service includes, in part: stake missionary, M-Men and Gleaner leaders (along with RoeAnn), Sunday School superintendent (and president), many other leadership callings, and his favorite: "teacher." His most recent service was that of High Priest/Relief Society instructor at the LDS Branch serving the Salt Lake Veterans home.
Gilbert is survived by one sister, Myrtle (Ben, deceased) Jepson, Bountiful, and four children: Nadine Harman, Salt Lake City; Evelyn (Michael) Jankovich, Highland, UT; Robert (Vickie) Gooch, Orem, UT; and Thayne (Cindy) Gooch, Salt Lake City. He also claims 16 grandchildren and 36 great-grandchildren, with one on the way. He was preceded in death by his parents, and siblings Mary Spencer, Ritchie Gooch, and Deon Ostergar Munson, as well as his eternal companion, RoeAnn, and first-born grandchild, David Harman (infant).
Our hearts overflow with gratitude and love for the dear administrative and nursing staff at the VA nursing home, for the professional care and compassion they have administered to Gilbert for nearly four years. Likewise, we express the same to the Bristol Hospice "angels" who provided additional loving support and tender care for the past several months, both to Gilbert and to us, his children.
Funeral services will be held Saturday, April 26, 2014, 12:00 noon at the Cannon 9th Ward, 1250 W. 1400 South. Visitations will be held Friday, April 25, from 6-8 p.m., and Saturday prior to the funeral, from 10:45-11:45 a.m., all at the ward building. Interment to follow at Mountain View Memorial Cemetery, 3115 East 7800 South (Bengal Blvd), Cottonwood Heights, UT.
Published in Deseret News from Apr. 20 to Apr. 23, 2014