March 22, 2022
Eugene Goodale, age 86, died March 22, 2022, at his home in Brookings, surrounded by love. He was a husband, father, grandfather, and great grandfather. He was a friend, lawyer, philanthropist. And he was a storyteller.
Eugene was born and raised in Dell Rapids. His father died when Gene was a baby, and his mother, Eleanor, worked in the café to support the family. His only brother, Merlin, was 12 years older, so much of Gene’s childhood was solitary, with nothing but his imagination to entertain him. On his first day of school, the teacher asked Gene to stay after class, a request which made him nervous about what he’d done wrong. He wasn’t in trouble, though. His teacher took him by the hand, walked him to the school library, and introduced him to the librarian who gave him his first library card. He carried home an armload of books and read them all. The other thing his first-grade teacher did was tell her students that they could go anywhere in the world if they wanted. And Gene did.
After high school, Eugene packed his belongings in a small cardboard suitcase and hopped a bus for Brookings. He had to ask where the college was, and then walked there and enrolled in Civil Engineering. He was headed out the door to find a hotel when the registrar asked if he wanted to stay in a dorm, so he went in search of Scoby Hall instead. It was there at South Dakota State where he met a young nursing student, JoAnn Olson, who would become the love of his life. When the Air Force ROTC cadet graduated (Engineering ’57) and received orders to report to Torrejon Air Base in Spain, Eugene and JoAnn decided it was time to marry.
Gene flew off to Madrid and when she graduated, JoAnn joined him, beginning the next chapter of their story. Their first child, Diane, was born in Madrid. Later transferred to Washington D.C. and work at the Pentagon, Eugene went to law school at Catholic University in the evenings (JD, ’65), and celebrated the birth of their second daughter, Julie. Michael, their third child, was born in Ohio. Eventually, Gene and Jo and their young family settled in Illinois, where Gene worked for Caterpillar Tractor Co., handling trademarks and licensing.
Knowing well how an education can change a life, they set up numerous scholarships in Gene’s name for Engineering and veterans at South Dakota State. They funded the confidence course for the ROTC program. Eugene was on the SDSU Foundation for eighteen years. In 2016, they were named Philanthropic Family of the Year, and Military Family of the Year. And when they finally retired, Gene and Jo moved home to South Dakota, to Brookings – the place where they met.
Eugene loved a good story, and he had some great ones. He was always happy to settle into his chair with a cup of coffee when friends or family visited, and say, “Hey, did I ever tell you about…?” There were stories about hitchhiking, rattlesnakes, hunting down counterfeiters in the docks and back alleys of France or China or Turkey. Diane recorded tales of growing up in Dell Rapids: cutting ice from the river, sledding down into Main Street, jumping off the bridge to swim in the river (it wasn’t dangerous if you knew where to jump!). On visits, Michael sat in the rocking chair and listened to stories of his old Nash Rambler – how he hid JoAnn’s engagement ring in the glove compartment, and forgot it was in there when he let her use the car while he was out of town for a few days (in her telling of the story, the brakes didn’t work, so she ran over a parking meter, but didn’t find the ring). While traveling together, Julie heard stories of dancing to big bands, of watching bullfights, learning to fly, to scuba dive, to ski – all while they had new adventures to add to his quiver of tales. And at the end of each day, Gene never failed to say to the love of his life, “Thank you for a good day. I love you, and I’ll see you in the morning.”
Eugene Goodale was a good man. He loved his wife JoAnn and his family. He loved a good tale. He is survived by his wife JoAnn; children Diane (Evan Renz), Julie (Ronald Lawrence), Michael (Kira Roman); grandchildren Megan (Jackson Perry), Marlene (Colin Elder), Jerod, and Madelyn; great grandsons Augustine and Laurence Perry; Hannelore Miller, a foreign-exchange student with JoAnn’s family who he came to think of as his own German “sister”; and dear friends too numerous to count. We are all keepers of his stories.
True to his philanthropy for furthering students’ educations, Eugene donated his body to the body donation program. A memorial will be held May 23, 11:00 am, at First Presbyterian Church in Brookings, with visitation beginning one hour earlier, at 10:00am. The service will be followed by military rites and reception at McCrory Gardens. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to SDSU Foundation, www.boldandblue.org; Brookings Hospital Hospice; or First Presbyterian Church, Brookings.
Condolences may be sent to the family through www.rudesfuneralhome.com