Gerald M. Goolkasian Jr.
1955 - 2020
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Gerald M. "Gerry" Goolkasian Jr., 65, passed away peacefully with his family by his side Friday, October 30, 2020 after a brief, hard fought battle with pancreatic cancer. Gerry was born in Dorchester, Massachusetts on July 21, 1955 to Eleanora (Fiorio) Goolkasian and the late Gerald Goolkasian Sr. He is survived by the love of his life and wife of 32 years, Amy (Galehouse) Goolkasian, and their three wonderful daughters, Alexis, Olivia, and Gillian. Gerry is also survived by his mother, his sister Ann and Tom ODonnell, sister Eleanora and Enrique Lugo, sister Virginia, sister Marjorie and Andrew Masse, sister Barbara and John Keane, brother David and Heather Morgan, many adoring nieces and nephews, and countless students, friends and colleagues on which he had a lasting impact. Gerry was an endlessly creative and talented artist as well as a lifelong teacher. After studying painting and art education at UMass, his artistic passions led him to MassArt, where he met his wife. He went on to spend 35 years teaching in the Lexington Public School system, the majority of these years spent teaching 6th grade math at Clarke Middle School, a place he loved dearly. He coached soccer, basketball, and softball, and continued coaching even after retiring in 2014. His sense of humor and endless energy lit up hallways, classrooms, and soccer fields. Gerrys life work was touching the lives of others, determined to live unselfishly and to uplift those around him. Gerry took advantage of every opportunity to be outside, creating and caring for an expansive backyard garden, enlisting students to rake leaves for seniors on weekends, playing many a pick-up basketball and softball game, rounds of golf, and on an over-the-hill soccer league, walking in the woods with his family, spending long summer days at Good Harbor beach boogie boarding, building sand sculptures and mini golf courses, and playing bocce ball, and building bonfires with his daughters in the backyard. He was filled with joy watching hummingbirds visit his bird feeder and rabbits jumping around his garden. Always stopping to admire the moon or the snow falling onto his sedum plants, Gerry was constantly inspired by his surroundings, recognizing and creating beauty each day. He could not pick up a pencil without creating a work of art, sketching imagined worlds, zany three-dimensional structures, and scenes of his lifes adventures and of favorite days. Gerry filled whiteboards with wacky narratives to inspire students, opened up an entire basement wall for his daughters to draw on while growing up, and continued drawing and painting masterpieces on index cards and canvasses alike throughout his life. Gerry will be remembered as an irreplaceable husband, father, teacher, brother and friend, and a person whose idiosyncratic sense of humor and sense of adventure could light up any room he entered. He found joy in everything he did, and lived every day with a full heart and an admirable capacity to live in the moment. Wherever he went, he made everyone feel at home. May his heart soar like a hawk. In lieu of flowers, we request donations be made to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.

To Plant Memorial Trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store.
Published in The Lexington Minuteman from Nov. 7 to Nov. 18, 2020.
Memories & Condolences
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18 entries
November 18, 2020
I knew Gerry through his work as a daily substitute for Belmont Public Schools. I will always remember his enthusiastic personality, larger than life. His passing was a shock to all who knew him here. My sincere condolences to his family and friends.
Rebecca Leeb
Coworker
November 14, 2020
I remember Gerry from Jr. High and High School. Always made me smile to talk with him. Rest in peace my friend.
Peter Mowatt
Classmate
November 11, 2020
Mr. Goolkasian has had such a positive impact on my son's middle school experience. My son doesn't play sports but he loves Dungeons and Dragons, and Mr. G ran the most wonderful summer camp and after-school program for D&D players. My son has made friends and found a wonderful source of social connection and brain exercise through Mr. G's camp and classes. My family will always be grateful to Mr. G for this excellent program, which benefits greatly from the leadership he provided and hopefully will continue to run for many years.
Rebecca O'Brien
Student
November 9, 2020
We are all still in shock here at Lexington Community Education/Lexplorations.
I wrote and posted a remembrance on our LCE website this morning. If the link below works, it's worth going on to see some amazing pictures of Gerry that he sent to us over the years: https://lexingtoncommunityed.org/remembering-gerry-goolkasian-1955-2020-master-of-dragons-and-king-of-hearts/
If the link does not work from this legacy site, the text of the remembrance is here:

Master of Dragons and King of Hearts

Remembering Gerry Goolkasian (1955-2020)

Spending summers with Gerry Goolkasian (a.k.a. Mr. G.) at Lexplorations was a bit like spending time near (and sometimes being engulfed by) a benevolent hurricane. Each summer Gerry’s swirling energy and enthusiasm was a force that could be felt as it lifted his students and the summer staff up off the ground for a wizardly spin. As director, I knew that when Mr. G entered the room, things were going to most likely be upturned and rearranged in unexpected ways. I also knew that Mr. G’s unorthodox requests and requirements would mean that we were most likely going to have to break the mold in some waymaybe move a classroom that had been secured with the facilities department, or put an unusual tech request in with IT, or make space for extra high school helpers. Additionally, I knew that Mr. G thought things through to the nth degree and that (although it did not always appear so at first) his new proposal and configuration had been worked out/sketched out by him on pencil and paper, and would be best for students in the end.

No matter what was happening in, or how many people were packed into our Lexplorations office, Mr. G would enter with a sense of urgency, telling us his thoughts for improvement, often before taking a breath to say hello. After his main points were expressed, he would laugh at his hurricane haste, say hello, and then spend concentrated time inquiring about family, telling a joke, or giving tips for the best place to park at Good Harbor beach. His earnestness both for making classroom improvements as well as making sure that we were all taking care of ourselves and that family was doing well was tangible and unique. I always genuinely felt heard, seen, and cared for as Gerry spun around to leave the room, and I hope Mr. G. felt that way after talking with me, too.

While Mr. G spent 35 years teaching in the Lexington Public School system, teaching 6th grade math at Clarke Middle School, I knew him best as our Lexplorations Summer program Dungeons & Dragons instructor. He must have taught that class with Lexplorations for 20 years or more. He was here teaching D&D and Geo * Art (a program that he developed that brought art and math together) in the summers long before I arrived in 2009. And while it was clear that he was truly an expert math and art teacher, I sometimes wondered how much he actually knew about D&D. He once told me the story of how he was first recruited to be involved with D&D. His adventure began at the request of an after school student club that needed an adult teacher to oversee the meetings. Gerry agreed to that, and not long after found himself agreeing to be the instructor for our five week, week-long summer D&D programs. If you are not aware of what D&D is, I think it’s fair to say that you are not alone. The game comes with a bit of an alternative culture stamp.

Gerry was one of the hardest working people I have met. Whether it be working in the classroom throughout the school year and into the summer, cutting his parents lawn, or working in his beautiful back-yard garden, it seemed he always had multiple activities happening each day. I don’t imagine he turned down many paying jobs in his life. It seemed against his nature to say no to good work. It was remarkable how much energy he had and how much time he spent working. However, it didn’t take me long to realize that the reason for his commitment to teaching all summer, and his side-job searches of tutoring and substitute teaching (even after retirement) was an extension to the commitment to his wife and daughters. He worked hard to help support the larger Goolkasian family, and he worked hard so that the family could spend quality time together on vacation each year. His commitment to his wife and daughters (and parents and sisters) was inspiring. That he was willing to do anything for them was clear. He always had so much energy and strength and fight, and that was all powered by his love for his family. He loved fiercely and lived fully. As a father myself, I was inspired by his commitment to his work, as well as his commitment to the outcome. The outcome of his work was not only about helping his students, it was also about spending time in laughter and sunlight on the beach with his own family.

Dungeons & Dragons is a multi-player game of strategy and chance that was developed in the 1970s and originally received some press because parents were concerned that it was somehow nefarious. While no more impious than Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, or the Star Wars movies, or the music of Led Zeppelin, the game provides a safe and much needed place for creativity, math familiarity, imagination, strategy, teamwork, and socialization with other players who typically might be a bit introverted, or who find the activities of the standard larger school setting awkward and largely uninteresting. In the realm of D&D, kids who might come across as shy in the cafeteria or gym class, come alive and are as engaged as any varsity quarterback or volleyball center star. You get the picture. The game often attracts different kinds of young, bright student stars that don’t always find a forum, or the space to shine in a stereotypical school culture.

As mentioned, I wondered more than once how much Gerry actually knew about Dungeons & Dragons. While I missed out on playing the game while I was growing up, I knew a bit about the structure of the game and that teams of players were formed to go on a campaign to reach some type of goal. I would ask Mr. G about how the campaigns were going and try to toss in technical D&D terms when I could to see if I could catch him off guard. He would usually laugh at my use of terms, and change the topic to a broader point about classroom management rather than game strategy. However, after years of this type of subtle testing I came to believe that Mr. G did in fact know a lot about the game, but that his purpose and focus was centered on the larger game of life that was being played.

By observing Mr. G. in the classroom over my 11 summers working with him, I came to realize Gerry’s role as D&D “teacher” was to act as an anchor to stabilize social interactions, get students to realize that the “game” they were really playing was not about what was on the game graph, and help them to discover that the powerful characters they were developing were not located in far off lands of dungeons and dragons, but were in fact located at the center of the self of each of them. Mr. G was there to show students that they were the main character holding the keys of their own destiny in the face of the fates. He was there to show by example that while the dragons of this world try to hide heart and treasure, it is more noble and takes more courage to wear your heart on your sleeve, and let your gold shine. Looking at the pictures (above) that he sent us over the years for our print catalogs, is clear to me now that Gerry was a wizard at the game of life, looking though the glass and pointing directly at his students. Pointing directly at us.

Gerry Goolkasian lost his battle with cancer on October 30, 2020, but he has forever won the battle of the hearts of his many LCE/Lexplorations students and staff. In his article, All I needed to know about life I learned from “Dungeons & Dragons” Ethan Gilsdorf tells us of 10 life lessons he gleaned from D&D. It’s a great article. Last summer in my subtle testing of Mr. G’s D&D knowledge, I read him the list. The lessons are: 1) Everyone has a purpose. 2) Diversity rocks. 3) Collaboration is better than competition. 4) There is no “end.” 5) Fight, fail, live again. 6) Parley! 7) It gets better. 8) Nothing beats paper and pencil. 9) Say what you mean, do what you say, and 10) There’s always a chance. Gerry liked the list and although he usually couldn’t be slowed down to talk D&D philosophy, we spent a few minutes talking about some of these points. I told him that the way I saw it, the essence of what he was providing in the D&D Lexplorations experience was contained in the list of ten points. Mr. G agreed. I thanked him for creating a place where these lessons could be shared with our students. I wanted him to know how unique what he was doing with us was. It was truly special. Mr. G was truly unique.

There are hundreds more tales to tell about Mr. G. and D&D, and each of the LCE/Lexplorations staff could easily write longer and better blog tributes, but for now suffice to say that we are forever grateful to Gerry Goolkasian for his years of teaching and friendship. While Gerry embodied and taught all of the ten D&D lessons listed above, number four seems best fitting for the somber time and task at hand.

While his creative fire and whirling, benevolent hurricane energy has now moved away from us, when it comes to Gerry Goolkasian and his memory and inspiration at LCE/Lexplorations, There is no “end.”

Craig Hall, Director of Lexington Community Education
Craig Hall
Coworker
November 9, 2020
Mr. G. ran the LCE Dungeons&Dragons programs for years. I am forever grateful to him for giving my kids a safe place to learn and play this game.
Meg Muckenhoupt
Acquaintance
November 9, 2020
I played Soccer with Gerry at the various pickup games in town and watched him coach practices and games for the Clarke soccer team on which one of my sons played. I also had some conversations with Gerry.

Gerry was a Renaissance man of many gifts and talents who quite humbly did everything with relentless passion, humor, joy and love.

It was evident that he truly cared about and tried to help every single kid. He had a great heart and a great and positive impact on students and adults.
John Courduvelis
Friend
November 8, 2020
My heart is broken to hear of Gerry's passing. I met him over 30 years ago when I lived in MA, working with Amy at Sasaki & Associates. Gerry made me laugh then, and every year after, when I would receive a Christmas card from the family, with Amy and the girls beaming, and Gerry making a funny face or gesture. I have fond memories of when they visited Naples, Florida, and after he and my husband made a beer run, my husband said to me, "that guy is hysterical." He and Amy were one of those couples destined to be together, true soul mates, and my heart breaks for her and their three beautiful daughters. Rest in Peace, Gerry - you deserve it. It was an honor to know you.
Lisa Esposito Trebilcock
Friend
November 8, 2020
There are just no words! Such a loss! Such a wonderful man! His smile lit up a room! He had a heart that was so big nothing could contain it. His family was his first love for sure! How he stayed by Amy’s side during her cancer battle. How he so delighted in each one of his daughters, all so different and unique, but they were his girls!
His kindness towards me and my son every summer on vacation was so wonderful. I thank you, Gerry, for showing my son what a real man is! And for taking him under your wing! You will be missed!
Lynn
Friend
November 8, 2020
Dear Goolkasian family, please accept our sincere condolences. Giancarlo Zaniolo had the pleasure to be coached soccer by Coach G. He was always wonderful and kind and will be missed by many. He touched the lives of many students and will always be remembered for being a great role model.
Cynthia Pfeiffer
Student
November 8, 2020
In all my memories of Gerry, he has a big smile as he relates a long, funny story about something that he had seen or heard that made him laugh. He played golf with my husband, Jim, on vacations in Ocean City, NJ and they shared stories about their good fortune in both having three wonderful daughters. My love to Amy, Alexis, Olivia, and Gillian.
Norma Galehouse
Family
November 8, 2020
I played soccer with Gerry and he was relentless - running nonstop, always talking and having fun. His enthusiasm was infectious. He coached my daughter at basketball and soccer and regularly mentioned her when we met - he clearly had great affection for his students and had a very positive impact on their lives. We miss Gerry and appreciate all the great times he gave us.
Jim Easton
Friend
November 8, 2020
Mr. G was a wonderful teacher, coach, friend and role model for so many students. He was caring with an amazing sense of humor. Our sons were luck to have him in their lives. The way he treated others is part of the legacy he leaves. The Carruthers family sends warm thoughts to his family.
Karen Carruthers
Friend
November 8, 2020
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Semoon Oh
November 8, 2020
Gerry was a Lexington Treasure. His respect for our children and his modeling of character, kindness, work ethic, and good humor live on in all who were lucky enough to be touched by his presence. The Walker Family sends our deepest condolences.
Karen and Jeff Walker + former Clarke students /soccer players
Student
November 8, 2020
Such a loss. He was a wonderful man! I remember him fondly from my days at Clarke! Hugs to his family ❤
Jess Gillis Quattrocchi
Student
November 7, 2020
I was lucky enough to have Mr. G as my middle school softball and basketball coach. He was always so positive and enthusiastic. You could just tell how much he cared for every player and every student. His heart was full and giving.
He will be dearly missed. My thoughts are with his family during this time.
Thank you for all the memories, Mr. G.
Alyssa Zahka
Student
November 7, 2020
I will always remember the effort Gerry took to help others and of course his sense of humor. He will be dearly missed.
Bob Peterson
Friend
November 7, 2020
I was so sad to hear this news last week. I saw Gerry last year when he was coaching g soccer against my son’s team in Westford and he still remembered me 30 years later and I still remembered his voice without even seeing his face. He will be be missed. He left a smile on anyone that that got the chance to meet him.
Amy Chervin
Student
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