Obituary: Donald Rhodes Goodby, 97

by | Feb 8, 2024

He died just weeks after Elia, his wife of 75 year

From the Hill Funeral Home Website

Donald Rhodes Goodby, who always remembered the children of janitors and elevator operators, changed the structure of a major insurance firm to accommodate employees in need, and helped make Amica one of the great customer service companies in America, died Feb. 7 in the arms of his dear children and in the thoughts of grandchildren and great-grandchildren all the way out to California. 

Perhaps owing to the large and ever-growing family around him, Donald embodied a moral compass for his offspring, but also a sense of humor and perspective when life was more complicated than that. His graciousness clearly came out of an empathy for people in a tight spot. 

The year 1926 was a time of home births in Cranston and Donald was delivered on the kitchen stove. As a kid, he skated on frozen ponds and later taught his children to zigzag as he swayed backwards, pulling them with a hockey stick. Summers were spent on the rocky beaches of Buttonwoods, where he set up bowling pins in the casino for a nickel a string. 

As a lifeguard at Posnegansett Pond in Warwick, he claimed to avert tragedy and went on to become an Eagle Scout – so who are we to doubt him? Eventually, he would come to land a berth on the Cranston East hockey team, although he admitted that he probably wasn’t “mean enough” to be a great hockey player. 

He was, however, a great student. After graduating from high school, he enlisted in the Navy, which sent him to Brown and then Union College, where he obtained a degree in electrical engineering in just three years. The Navy, very happy about this, made him chief radar officer on a fleet of ships. This armed him with a lifetime of electrical knowledge to pass on to his children, which he delivered with a warning to “never mix beer and electricity.” 

Upon the death of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1945, the Navy also found that Donald was proficient at playing the cornet. They had him play Taps on a bugle.

Wharton Business School was his first stop after the Navy. Again, he excelled and went on a double date with his roommate on which he met Elia Lorenzini who “walked down the stairs and changed my life.” Elia was a painter and art student, born in Italy, and the combination of their talents redounds within the younger family members to this very day. 

His first job was at Bausch and Lomb in Worcester, but a call came from Amica Insurance in Providence where he would soon be the first Rhode Islander ever to receive the designation of Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter (CPCU). He would go on to helm Amica at the highest levels – even serving for many years on the board – and helped make it into the admired company it is today. 

These achievements, however, pale in comparison to his critical support for the Boston Red Sox and New England Patriots. Donald’s zeal led the Red Sox to finally break the Curse of the Bambino and took the Pats to six World Championships. He attended many of those Super Bowls in person with his sons. 

Above all, he was a Rhode Islander whose family has been here since before the Civil War. He loved the ocean, Saugies, and the quirky togetherness of the state’s culture. 

After 75 years of marriage, Donald and Elia have now both died within weeks of each other. As a friend said, “Death could not separate them.” They are survived by three much-appreciated children: Jeffrey of Oakland, California, Scott of North Palm Beach, Florida, and Loren of East Greenwich. Grandchildren will gather, eight of them: Nina, Nathaniel, Honor Grace, Kristen, Brittany, Benjamin, Kevin, and John. And then, great grand-children: Remy, Malia, Josephine, James, Emily, and Tripp. Donald and Elia held them close every day. 

A memorial service is planned Saturday, Feb. 10, at 10 a.m., in St. Luke’s Church, East Greenwich. In lieu of flowers, please make donations to Donald’s favorite cause, the Episcopal Charities of Rhode Island, https://www.episcopalri.org/

 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

EG News Obituary Policy: We post obituaries relevant to our readers. If you would like to share an obituary, send it to [email protected]. Put “obituary” in the subject line. 

Posted 2/8/24

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Bruce Mastracchio
Bruce Mastracchio
February 9, 2024 8:32 am

Mr. Goodby was one of those “nice people” you meet on the road of life. He will be missed by all who knew him. Truly a unique guy. Thanks for the “push” way back.
Condolences to his family.

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