Friends, family and colleagues describe John W. Goodwin Jr., who died early Monday, as a conscientious and fair reporter, a caring person and a devoted dad.
Goodwin, who worked at The Vindicator from 1999 to 2013, most recently covering Youngstown police/Mahoning County, suffered a heart attack. He left the newspaper in 2013 due to illness.
“Besides being my eldest brother, John was also like my dad,” said his younger sister, Amy Williams. “My father died when I was very young. Losing him [Goodwin] is like a double whammy for me.”
He was also like a father to her son, she said.
Four years ago, Goodwin’s son, John III, was born.
Goodwin suffered heart problems for several years, and his sister said he worried about leaving his child fatherless.
“He didn’t want to leave him, especially because he grew up without an active father,” Williams said. “That probably weighed on him more than anything else.”
Goodwin enrolled in law school while working as a reporter and was expected to graduate with his law degree early next year from the University of Akron.
Goodwin became interested in the law while covering the courthouse beat. That’s how he met Judge Lou A. D’Apolito of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court.
“He was always prepared and he had no agenda,” the judge said. “He just stated the facts.”
Judge D’Apolito noticed Goodwin’s interest in the law. When Goodwin decided to apply to law school, the judge wrote him a letter of recommendation.
Patrecka Adams, the mother of Goodwin’s son, met him when she was a student at Youngstown State University. A class assignment required her to interview a journalist, so she contacted Goodwin.
“When he came to meet me at The Jambar, I thought, ‘Whoa, he’s cute,’” Adams said. That was in 2003.
The couple shared many lively discussions. “He was very passionate about what he believed and wouldn’t mind telling you what he thought,” Adams said.
Goodwin’s Vindicator supervisors and co-workers recall his passion too.
“His voice was especially cherished in understanding the challenges of the inner city,” said Editor Todd Franko. “He was an accomplished, proud young African-American male in a unique era for his generation.”
“He would come over to my desk during the day when he was a cops reporter and we’d debate guns and the law – whatever the story of the day was – and he never failed to teach me something from his perspective,” said Mark Sweetwood, the newspaper’s managing editor. “With his passion and intelligence, he would have made a hell of an attorney.”
“John was an outstanding journalist and co-worker,” said David Skolnick, politics and city hall reporter. “But even more than that, he was a wonderful and caring person, friend and father. Despite the challenges he faced, he had a smile on his face and a great sense of humor.”
Richard Logan, the newspaper’s design desk chief, first met Goodwin about 20 years ago when Goodwin was a YSU student in Logan’s evening copy editing and design class, and admired Goodwin’s work ethic. “I recall he was extremely soft-spoken and shy, and I usually had to ask him to speak up so the whole class could hear him,” Logan said.
Bob Jackson, Mahoning County jury commissioner, worked with Goodwin when both were Vindicator reporters. “He always had an encouraging word for someone who needed it, and he had his priorities straight,” Jackson said, noting “his family meant more to him than anything.”
Tom Costello was appointed to his term as a Boardman trustee while Goodwin was assigned to the Boardman/Poland beat. When Goodwin was reassigned to a different beat, Costello remembers the reporter’s story about the plight of homelessness in Youngstown. Goodwin spent a few days in the role of a homeless person, sleeping and eating at a shelter.
His articles raised the public’s awareness of the problem, Costello said.
Ernie Brown Jr., Vindicator regional editor, recalls Goodwin’s homeless project, too. “He had been touched by covering stories about the homeless and their plight, and he wanted to do a first-person story about their lives, how they were treated and perceived, and how they ended up living on the streets,” he said.
Linda Hartzell, the newspaper’s society clerk, recalls Goodwin’s good nature. “When I think of John, I think of a quiet, caring, classy young man who loved his family and treated all of us with respect and caring. He was conscientious in his work and was kindness personified,” she said.
Linda Linonis, religion writer, called Goodwin a big man with a big heart. “He was so proud when he became a father, and was an involved one, and sent the newsroom photos and even visited a couple of times with his son ... I guess God needed another good soul in heaven. He will be sorely missed here on earth,” Linonis said.