Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Edward Olin Goodrich Jr., 92, former surgeon who lived joyful life despite own illnesses

Asked how he endured his illnesses so cheerfully, Dr. Goodrich replied: "I'm optimistic. I figure you are going to laugh or cry, and you're better off laughing."

Edward Olin Goodrich and son, Alfred, in August 2014, after winning a second-place medal in the Bayada Regatta.
Edward Olin Goodrich and son, Alfred, in August 2014, after winning a second-place medal in the Bayada Regatta.Read moreCourtesy of the family

Edward Olin Goodrich Jr., 92, of Ardmore, a former surgeon who rose above a string of illnesses to lead a busy, joyful life as a senior, died Sunday, Dec. 10, of lung cancer at the Philadelphia VA Medical Center Hospice.

Known as "Ned," Dr. Goodrich was a study in perseverance. He battled testicular cancer in 1965, a massive stroke in 1980, prostate cancer in 2002, a heart attack in 2004, small strokes starting in 2009, and lung cancer in 2013, according to a 2014 TV profile.

The stroke took away his ability to continue to perform surgery, and years went by before he regained his motor skills, he told NBC News. Asked how he endured so cheerfully, he replied: "I'm optimistic. I figure you are going to laugh or cry, and you're better off laughing."

Dr. Goodrich was born in New Haven, Conn., to Edward Olin Goodrich Sr. and Laura Mae MacKay. His father could trace his ancestry back to New England's earliest colonial settlement – there is a family association tracing its lineage. His mother was the daughter of Scottish immigrants.

He attended the Hopkins School in New Haven and graduated from Yale University in the war Class of 1944.

After completing his medical studies in 1949 at New York Medical College, now in Valhalla, N.Y., Dr. Goodrich joined the Army as a battalion surgeon and was deployed to the Korean War front. During a fierce battle in brutal cold on Nov. 27, 1950, near the Chosin Reservoir in Changjin County, North Korea, Dr. Goodrich treated and then helped evacuate wounded American Marines and GIs as the Chinese Ninth Army pressed to within 20 yards of their position.

For his gallantry in battle, then-Capt. Goodrich was awarded the Silver Star on April 14, 1951. "He refused to leave his patients and repeatedly exposed himself to small arms fire as he continued to administer to their needs," said the citation accompanying the Silver Star.

After returning to civilian life in 1959, Dr. Goodrich enrolled in the Army Reserve, rising to the rank of colonel. He retired in 1985, according to his military papers.

While performing a residency at the Albany, N.Y., VA hospital in the mid-1950s, he conducted groundbreaking research on dogs in the field of liver transplantation.

He was licensed to practice medicine in New Mexico from 1959 to 1987 and in Pennsylvania from 1987 to 2004.

In the early 1960s, while living in Santa Fe, he assisted in founding the Santa Fe Preparatory School. The school opened in 1963 with 63 students and now has 320.

In 1980, following the stroke that ended his surgical career, he and his family moved to the Philadelphia suburbs, where he partially recovered. He continued to take medical histories and do physicals at Cooper University Hospital in Camden and St. Joseph's Hospital in Philadelphia until 2000.

Known to family and friends as a "tough old Yankee," Dr. Goodrich never shied away from a challenge. In his early 80s, he took up rowing, and with his son, Alfred James Goodrich, won first place in Bayada Regattas in 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2016. He won second place in 2014 and third place in 2015. The regattas are adaptive rowing competitions for the disabled.

Dr. Goodrich told NBC he stayed fit and alert in old age by using a rowing machine and volunteering as a doctor at the Community Volunteers in Medicine clinic for uninsured patients in West Chester.

Asked what advice he would give young people, he told the TV station: "Keep your head down and keep pumping. If you are not limping by the time you are 50 years old, you are going to miss something."

Dr. Goodrich married Gladys Patricia Goodrich. The couple had three children before divorcing. He married Alfreda Verratti Goodrich in 1974 and had two more children with her. Both wives died in the early 1990s.

In addition to his son, he is survived by children Edward Olin Goodrich III, Timothy Jerome Goodrich, Jonathan Patrick Goodrich, and Claudia Goodrich Bender; and four grandchildren.

A viewing from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 15, at Chadwick & McKinney Funeral Home, 30 E. Athens Ave., Ardmore, will be followed by an 11 a.m. funeral service Saturday, Dec. 16, at Main Line Unitarian Church, 816 Valley Forge Rd., Devon. Interment will be in Valley Forge Memorial Gardens, King of Prussia.

Memorial donations may be made to Community Volunteers in Medicine, 300 Lawrence Dr., West Chester, Pa. 19380.