By MORDECAI SPECKTOR
The sanctuary of Temple Israel in Minneapolis was packed for the March 24 funeral of John B. Goodman. The chairman of The Goodman Group, which develops and manages senior living communities and real estate properties across the country, was remembered by family and friends as an exceptionally loving and generous man.
Goodman suffered a heart attack March 15, and died March 20, in Tampa, Fla. He was 66.
Among his many business interests, Goodman was a partner in Minnesota Jewish Media, LLC, the parent company of the American Jewish World.
Former U.S. Senator Norm Coleman eulogized Goodman as one of the most loving people he has ever met.
“He wanted people to have the best care or the best life,” Coleman told the Star Tribune.
The funeral also included a musical interlude featuring local singing star Patty Peterson, accompanied by a pianist. She sang a medley of “What a Wonderful World” and “My Way,” the iconic Frank Sinatra tune.
Close friend Steven Schussler also spoke at the funeral, and recalled daily phone chats with the man he called “Johnny G.” And to illustrate his friend’s instinctive generosity, Schussler told a story about Goodman inviting a homeless woman into a fancy restaurant dinner in New York City.
In a phone conversation with the Jewish World this week, Schussler retold the story: Goodman saw a woman begging on the sidewalk, brought her into the restaurant and seated her next to then Mayor Rudy Guiliani, who was in the midst of “a new initiative of getting rid of the homeless and panhandlers in the streets of Manhattan.”
Goodman introduced the homeless woman to all of the notables around the table “and made her feel like she was royalty, and then gave her $18,000 when she was on her way out, to get her life together.”
That incident typified Goodman’s “spontaneous decent, unbelievably generous and philanthropic” nature, Schussler commented.
Schussler is the chairman of Schussler Creative, Inc., which develops theme restaurants, including Jukebox Saturday Night and Rainforest Café. He mentioned that Goodman also provided a bridge loan, which helped Schussler create his “prehistoric adventure at Disney World in Orlando, [a restaurant] called T-Rex… He was not only a friend, but he was a mentor, an investor.”
Of course, Goodman’s main focus was The Goodman Group, which was founded by his father, Sidney, in 1965, and originally called The Sage Company. John Goodman got his start in the business by leasing offices in the Meadowbrook Medical Building, in St. Louis Park, to doctors. Sidney Goodman died Oct. 20, 2013, at the age of 93.
In 1976, John Goodman took over management of the company and grew its commercial and residential property management business, while also expanding into other businesses. Headquartered in Chaska, The Goodman Group operates 33 senior living and health care communities, with 13,000 residents, in Minnesota, South Dakota, Montana, Oregon, Washington, California, Arizona and Florida. The company also owns and manages 29 residential communities, with more than 4,200 apartments, and commercial properties in Minnesota and other states.
The American Jewish world published a feature story, “The Goodman Group at 50,” last July, which looked at how “The Goodman Group has attained a stellar national reputation as an operator of senior living, health care and rehabilitation facilities, children’s learning centers, and residential and commercial properties, since its founding in 1965.”
For that story, Goodman told the Jewish World: “We are doing everything we can to help people transition in their lives — whether it be health issues or regarding their living environment… And the way we do it is by helping them with body, mind, spirit and emotional well-being.”
During a phone conversation this week, Robyn Johnson, spokesperson for The Goodman Group, said that she worked at the company 20 years ago, for a number of years, and rejoined the firm two and a half years ago. “I have to tell you that what brought me back to the company was the fact that John was so genuine about his care for seniors, back then, and so progressively forward in terms of how he was willing to go about that level of care.”
Johnson added that in her “professional experience away from The Goodman Group,” she never met anyone who measured up to Goodman’s vision and high standards.
On her return to The Goodman Group, Johnson found “that there was a sense of urgency on John’s part to move faster forward to make sure that everything he had always wanted to bring to senior care… all of these initiatives were getting completed and implemented. There was a real sense of passion and a real sense of ‘now’s the time.’”
In his desire to provide optimal care for residents in The Goodman Group’s senior living communities, Goodman was continually on the cutting edge of new theories and therapies.
Regarding the “body, mind, spirit approach to well-being, John was talking about that before New Age had really started to mainstream,” Johnson commented. “For example, John is the first one to bring a farm-to-table, organic, sustainable food program into senior care environments. He’s the first to implement an aromatherapy-essential oil protocol, because we know that can have a positive effect in terms of reducing agitation and increasing a sense of well-being.”
In addition, according to Johnson, Goodman pioneered a number of alternative therapies — massage, Reiki, acupuncture, etc. — in senior care communities. And as part of his wholistic health focus, Goodman launched the innovative Intergenerational Living and Health Care organization, which brought early childhood care centers into senior campuses, “because he knew that there was this incredible bond to be discovered between an aging population and young children.”
Goodman’s philosophy was laid out in his two books, Moments Matter: Everyday Inspiration from a Soulful CEO and the recently published The Road to Self: Reflections from a Soulful CEO.
When I interviewed Goodman last year for the story about The Goodman Group, he talked about setting up trusts and ensuring that the company would continue on for another 50 or more years. He also mentioned suffering a heart attack several years ago. He conveyed a sense that he was looking beyond this life.
Johnson mentioned traveling with Goodman to the company’s facilities this year, and that he would talk about aging and dying in his public lectures.
“It kind of gives me chills, even talking about it,” allowed Johnson, who mentioned that there is a memorial website for Goodman that includes video shot just hours before he suffered a heart attack last month.
In the video, Goodman says, “The big goal of my life is to change the way we view aging and death…. If we look at it as a transition, like a sunrise and a sunset, we’ll view death as just another experience. We will be here for as long as it takes to learn whatever it is we need to learn, or to do whatever it is we need to do.”
Goodman continued, “All we have is right now, right this moment, we’re here, we’re together. And as long as we stay in this moment, the next moment will come, and the moment after that will come, and life will start to flow like a river. And instead of trying to bend the flow of that river and change the course, we can flow along with it, and you’ll be surprised how many miracles will happen when you let go of trying to control everything.”
Goodman is survived by a son, Shane; a daughter-in-law, Carolin; and a grandson, Daniel; and many relatives.
The members of Minnesota Jewish Media, LLC, and the staff of the American Jewish World, extend their condolences to Goodman’s family.
(American Jewish World, 4.8.16)