Robert Godshall, Pennsylvania lawmaker who served for 36 years, 86
“When it came to the number of hours put into the job, for 36 years, he was the undisputed champ,” said Grey Godshall, one of the representative’s sons.
Robert Godshall, 86, who served in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives for 36 years, died Sunday, Nov. 24, as a result of cancer.
“When it came to the number of hours put into the job, for 36 years he was the undisputed champ,” said his son, Grey. “He worked at the job literally seven days a week, 24 hours a day. It was his life, his passion, and his hobby.”
Rep. Godshall, a Republican, served in the state House from 1982 through 2018, and represented the 53rd District, which included parts of Franconia, Hatfield, Lansdale, and his home town, Souderton, in Montgomery County.
“He was also known as the only legislator who had his home phone number on their office answering machine,” Grey Godshall said. “He wanted to make sure he was available to anyone who needed him 24/7, because he felt that if they were calling him, they had nowhere else to go.”
Rep. Godshall fought many illnesses, including multiple myeloma and heart issues, and had been in the hospital for 10 days prior to his death.
He lived his entire life on his family’s poultry farm, Godshall’s Hatchery. He earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration from Juniata College in 1955 before attending the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. He didn’t graduate, being called home to take care of his ill father and help with the farm.
An avid sports fan, Rep. Godshall played football and baseball for Souderton High School, and became a competitive golfer as an adult. He loved watching the Little League World Series each summer.
“There’s nothing he enjoyed more than going to Eagles and Phillies games with his grandchildren,” Grey Godshall said.
As a legislator, he advocated for health care and tourism, among other issues.
In 2017, Rep. Godshall authored the Right-to-Try law, which his son noted as his greatest legacy. The legislation allowed patients with terminal illnesses to “use investigational drugs, biological products and devices not yet approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.” The model ultimately became part of national law.
The recipient of a bone-marrow transplant, Rep. Godshall also wrote legislation that provided tax breaks to businesses who give employees time off to donate an organ or bone marrow as a way to increase donations. That legislation became a model for other states, and Rep. Godshall received the 2011 American Hero Award from the National Kidney Registry.
“We are deeply saddened by the loss of Bob Godshall, whose strong legacy lives throughout the Pennsylvania Capitol,” state House Speaker Mike Turzai said in a statement. “During his 18 terms in office, Rep. Godshall was a strong voice for the residents of the 53rd Legislative District and for people throughout the state.”
His wife, Sara Fell Godshall, and son Brad died earlier. In addition to his son, he is survived by children Jami Godshall Adams, Tanya Godshall Neuman, and Shanin Godshall Macaluso; 16 grandchildren; seven great-grandchildren; and a brother.
A funeral service will be held at 1 p.m. Friday, Nov. 29, at Zion Mennonite Church, 149 E. Cherry Lane, Souderton, with visitation and viewing beginning at 10 a.m. Burial will be private.