JoAnn W. Goddard: A colleague and a friend

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JoAnn W. Goddard was an intrepid journalist who channeled her talents into reporting fairly and accurately on the marine industry. Even in the most hectic of circumstances, she remained calm and composed. 

Crossing the Bar

Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea,

But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound or foam,

When that which drew from out the   boundless deep
Turns again home.

Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell;
When I embark;

For though from out our bourns of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crossed the bar.

— Alfred Lord Tennyson

JoAnn W. Goddard was an intrepid journalist who channeled her talents into reporting fairly and accurately on the marine industry. Even in the most hectic of circumstances, she remained calm and composed.
As associate editor of Soundings Trade Only, she was my right-hand woman who lent me her support and her expertise. I trusted her implicitly.

So you can imagine our disbelief when the news came from Washington, D.C., the afternoon of Monday, April 28: JoAnn, who was in Washington to cover the American Boating Congress, had died in her hotel room.

This can’t be, I thought. She’s 44 years old. Way too young to die.

She had no serious health problems that anyone was aware of. Yet there I was, being told she had died of natural causes — a woman who had been full of life when she and I last talked April 25 about details of her ABC coverage, which was to have begun April 28.

In the week that followed, I had to reconcile the fact that she was not coming back to work.
And sad as it was to write this tribute, my thoughts turned to some of the memorable moments she and I shared.

There was the time we were putting the finishing touches on the magazine. Deadline was at hand, and we were still waiting for a photo from the White House. The picture was to have shown an executive from a leading manufacturer of outdoor products in a photo op with President Bush.

JoAnn had worked hard on a cover piece and sidebar that focused on this executive’s philosophy on how the industry could attract kids to outdoor activities. That philosophy attracted the attention of President Bush, and the executive had been invited to the White House to elaborate on it.

Our magazine cover was already laid out, with the story in place and space left open for the photo.

I was getting antsy. “Where’s the picture?” I kept asking. I looked at JoAnn and I’m sure she saw panic in my eyes. “JoAnn, please call the White House press office again. It’s 11 a.m.”

Moments later, she returned with stunning news: The executive had left his job unexpectedly. Even as we spoke, the company was preparing a news release announcing his departure.

“This can’t be,” I said. “He’s on the cover. He’s the lead story.”

Naturally, her stories were pulled and the pages were redone on the tightest deadline imaginable.

All her hard work was torn off three pages.

Ouch.

She was taken aback and upset. She did not flash her contagious landmark smile. Yet JoAnn maintained her professional demeanor.

The magazine got out, and she and I chilled out at our favorite eatery for a long lunch. It’s that professionalism that decidedly made JoAnn a cut above the rest.

“JoAnn was the calm in the storm — the rock when the sand was shifting underneath,” said Kelly Leach, a friend and colleague at Soundings and Trade Only.

As Ann Medford of SeaTow said, “Her quiet demeanor and her ability to never let you feel like you were interrupting her day — or her deadlines,” will be remembered and missed. She was a “gentle soul,” said Medford.

JoAnn loved to wrap her arms around a big story, peeling back the layers to get to all the facts.

This was clearly exemplified in her 2007 feature, “An Island Divided,” which covered the controversial proposal to expand a marina on Block Island, R.I. JoAnn received a national APEX award for that piece.

Boating Writers International honored JoAnn numerous times throughout the years, including presenting her with its prestigious top prize recognizing journalistic excellence, which she received in 2001.

Ian C. Bowen, editorial director for Soundings Publications, who was with JoAnn at ABC, said, “We’re all devastated by this tragedy. JoAnn was an excellent reporter and a wonderful person. We’ll miss her very much.”

As Jock West, a public relations pro, said, “She always saw the story and never the spin.”

JoAnn did not like being the center of attention. I wish you could have seen her face when she was told she was going to do some video and voiceovers for some stories that ran on TradeOnly’s e-mail newsletter.

Once we convinced her she had a beautiful speaking voice, she relaxed a bit. Again, she showed her absolute professionalism and her pieces were a success.

Her colleagues in the industry said JoAnn was always open to new story ideas, inspired readers and made them think.

“She made the most mundane topics interesting and important, and she could quickly separate the wheat from the chaff in her interviews,” said marketing pro Mike Walker. “I’m going to continue to miss her, not so much for her work, which was no small achievement, but for her friendship, which was a gift she gave to so many.”

Another public relations veteran, Bob Black, called her “a gem.”

“When Soundings was in a rebuilding mode about 10 years ago, JoAnn was the first general assignment reporter I hired for our new team,” said Bill Sisson, editor of Soundings magazine. “I needed someone who was fast, accurate and versatile. JoAnn proved to be a quick learner of all things nautical, a terrific deadline reporter and a wonderful shipmate. She did a lot of the heavy lifting in those early years, writing literally hundreds of stories for Soundings. We owe her a real debt of gratitude. A strong, quiet woman with a lovely smile, JoAnn will be greatly missed.”

The industry has lost a talented writer, said Kelly Flory of the Martin Flory Group. “I know there are heavy hearts throughout the marine business world, mourning our collective loss.”

JoAnn was the last journalist who interviewed the late Jerry Martin.

“That interview was very precious to me,” said Laura Martin, Jerry’s daughter. “We later talked about that, and she said, ‘If I’d known, I would have made a bigger deal of it.’ Now, I feel exactly the same way in thinking about my time with her.

“She really had the spark of life in her and touched so many people. Even though she’s gone way too soon, what so many of us had with her was a gift.”

Glenn Mallory, Soundings publisher emeritus, summed it up well.

“JoAnn was one of those award-winning journalists whose talent separated our publications from the pack and allowed us to become the leader in the industry we serve,” he said. “She was also a wonderful person, a mom and wife.”

As her editor, I couldn’t agree more.

JoAnn, you touched so many lives, especially mine. You will always be in my heart and on my mind.

And don’t think for a second, I still won’t talk to you.

This article originally appeared in the June 2008 issue.

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