Grace Maureen Godshalk, 81, of Yardley, a longtime Lower Makefield Township supervisor and mother of William R. Godshalk, a victim of the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center, died Saturday, Dec. 15, of heart failure at Chandler Hall Hospice in Newtown.
Born in Queens, New York City, to William and Violet Bell Parkinson, she graduated from Jamaica High School before moving to Lower Makefield in 1965.
While commuting to work in New York, she was struck by the contrast between the congested Big Apple and then-rural Lower Makefield. For years after, she pushed to curtail over-development and to preserve farmland in the township.
In 1977, Mrs. Godshalk became the first woman elected to the township board of supervisors. A Republican, she served from 1978 to 2008, and was the panel’s chair for part of that time. During her tenure, the Bucks County township grew rapidly.
“In the 30 years she served, Lower Makefield went through change from a farming to a bedroom community,” said John Lewis, who chairs the current board of supervisors. “The new community needed a pool, a golf course, a park, a library, a softball complex, an open space program. She was part of building that infrastructure. She made a difference to the community.”
Mrs. Godshalk was a strong advocate of historical preservation, serving on both the township’s historical commission and its nonprofit historical society.
She helped initiate the open space program and was directly involved in the preservation of farmland and undeveloped areas, including the 230-acre Five Mile Woods nature preserve, the 225-acre Patterson Farm, the 81-acre Conservation Easement on the Ruth Wright Farm, and the 34-acre Snipes tract.
The Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors recognized Mrs. Godshalk’s public service by inducting her into its Hall of Fame in 2007.
“She was a tenacious and strong advocate for her position, and the township will miss her,” Lewis said.
On Sept. 11, 2001, Mrs. Godshalk’s son, a 35-year-old bond trader and athlete, was working on the 89th floor of the World Trade Center’s South Tower in New York when a jet hijacked by terrorists flew into the North Tower. He called his mother to say he was fine. Not long after the call, a second plane flew into the South Tower. Her son died in the resulting fire and building collapse.
Saying the nation’s air defense system had failed to alert the country about the multiple hijackings in time to save lives, Mrs. Godshalk prodded the U.S. government to investigate the attacks. She lobbied lawmakers for answers, went to rallies, and joined other families of 9/11 victims in demanding action.
“There were tremendous failures that day,” she told the Inquirer in July 2004. “For me, that’s what really hurts. I spoke to my son that day. He could have gotten out. There was no one in charge, telling them what to do.”
In remembrance of those who died in the attack, including 18 from Bucks County, Mrs. Godshalk and other relatives of 9/11 victims formed a committee to plan and build a Garden of Reflection in the township’s Memorial Park. The garden was dedicated on Sept. 30, 2006.
“After 9/11, she poured all her energy and grief into the Garden of Reflection,” said her daughter, Jane G. Haller.
A longtime member of the Morrisville Presbyterian Church, Mrs. Godshalk was an elder and a member of the church’s Presbyterian Women. She was also a member of the Pennsbury Questers and the Martha Washington Garden Club.
She spent time at the family’s summer home in Buck Hill Falls, a community in the Poconos to which she invited famous lecturers, musicians, and thinkers for the enjoyment of the residents.
Her husband, James Bond Godshalk, died in 2013. In addition to her daughter, she is survived by two grandchildren; a sister; two nieces; and a nephew.
A visitation starting at 10 a.m. Friday, Dec. 21, will be held in the lounge of Morrisville Presbyterian Church, 771 N. Pennsylvania Ave., Morrisville, Pa. 19067. Services will follow at 11 a.m. Burial is private.