MY FRIEND Joe Goddard has died. In fact, he was more than my friend; he was mih pardner. A pardner is someone you are totally comfortable with.
You laugh and joke, of course, as you do with people who will never be even your friends. But you also discuss serious personal and family matters, and seek views and advice, knowing that trust and confidentiality will be preserved.
You do favours for your pardner. You can rely on your pardner’s word. And if you don’t see each other in months or years, you simply pick up where you left off, as if no gap in time existed.
One doesn’t have too many pardners. Some friends, yes, and a multitude of acquaintances. In the peripatetic Foreign Service life I led, I made fewer friends and more acquaintances than most, but pardners bond much earlier than that; Joe and I had known each other nearly all our lives.
Karl Hudson-Phillips was mih pardner. He is gone. My longtime partner – she was mih pardner, too – is gone. Now Joe is gone. My world is shrinking.
Joe was a very quiet man, private almost to a fault, without a gossipy or malicious bone in his body. Unlike some of us who write articles and give media interviews and ruffle feathers, he preferred, as I so often heard him say, to “stay in (his) crease.” But he possessed other abilities and strengths which I wish I had.
For more than 50 years he was faithfully and contentedly married to his late wife Grace. (I shall say nothing about my own indifferent record in that area.) He was an excellent father to their five children. He was an excellent older brother to his siblings. He was one of the first people in TT to use a computer commercially, when he was head of reservations at BWIA.
He was a first-rate classical pianist, who always topped his class at our Music Festivals; I have a CD he made about two years ago, with his interpretations of Chopin, Liszt, Mozart and Schubert. (True to his nature, he declined my offer to try to publicise it. He didn’t even want me to lend it to anyone, and I have respected his wishes.)
He was an athlete, a sprinter, who with Michael Agostini represented TT at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. For many years he was a businessman, both in TT and the USA. And, after much prompting from me, and a promise to be his editor, he had begun to set his life experiences down in writing.
You cannot easily match an all-round performance like that, let alone dream of surpassing it.
Unshakably Tobagonian, he insisted on living permanently in Tobago after Grace’s passing, and it was at their home in Mount Irvine that he died, a little more than two weeks ago.
We had spoken on the telephone just a few days before; he sounded fine. And before that, in early February, I had taken him to lunch for his 86th birthday. Unusually for him, a near-teetotaller, he had even had a glass of wine – a whole glass!
My last memory of him is a pleasant one, but now he is gone, to a better place, I’m sure, than this dangerously absurd and topsy-turvy planet. He would certainly deserve it. He was one of the finest human beings I have ever known. He will certainly rest in peace.