MERIDEN — The city’s academic and track communities lost a coach, a teacher, mentor and friend when Roy Gooding died Wednesday.
“He had a wonderful connection to the community,” said Board of Education member Robert Kosienski Jr. who first met Gooding when Kosienski was just 5 years old. “He was loved and admired as an administrator and coach to thousands of kids at Platt.”
Goodng died at Coccomo Memorial Healthcare Center at 89. He was born in Panama on Nov. 20, 1929, the son of the late Phillip and Zilla Gooding.
He taught science at Platt High School from 1958 to 1973 and became principal of the former Jefferson Middle School in Meriden in 1976. Gooding retired from the position in 1992. While teaching, he also coached the cross-country team.
After Gooding retired, he served on the Board of Education from 1993 to 2005, where he served alongside friends such as Kosienski, and former Lincoln Middle School principal John Lineen, who died in March.
The day before Lineen died, Gooding visited his friend at the hospital and they spent hours together, Kosienski said.
“It’s another huge loss to the Meriden Public School system,” said Superintendent Mark Benigni. “Roy worked with so many students and staff throughout the years both as staff and as a board member. I’m glad I got the chance to get to know him. He truly cared deeply about our city and our kids’ future.”
After retiring and while still serving on the board, Gooding remained active in the community, serving on executive boards for the Meriden YMCA and the Boys & Girls Club. He received the NAACP Community Service Award in 1993 and was elected to the Platt High School Hall of Fame in 1999.
He was also instrumental in getting the Bernie Jurale Tradition Run and Meriden Ten-Mile Road Race started.
”We lost a dear friend, biology teacher and lifelong mentor in all aspects of life,” said Scott Hayes, former student and runner in an e-mail. “His college prep classes were professorial, but not as hard as his distance workouts or speed workouts on the track.”
“Expectations were high in the classroom, and the bar was set high for any runner who experienced a Gooding workout,” Hayes said. “The results were championship cross country teams and scholar-athletes dueling with cross-town rival Maloney when both Meriden schools reached a zenith in distance running.”
Believed in Meriden
Gooding also maintained personal relationships with former students and colleagues. Students recalled counting on Gooding often for friendly advice even later in life.
“He could bring everyone together,” Kosienski said. “He could talk about the politics of the world and how well he did at Mohegan Sun. Roy would always encourage me to keep an open mind. He would say ‘Bobby there is always two sides to everything and make sure you listen to the third side.’ I appreciated that.”
In 2013, Gooding was named to the Meriden Hall of Fame. According to a Record-Journal account, when Meriden Public School Board Chairman Mark Hughes joined the school board in 1993, Gooding greeted Hughes and asked him how his mother was. She had Gooding for a teacher and Hughes was surprised he remembered her.
“He told me he couldn’t remember what he had for breakfast but could remember his students and that’s what important,” Hughes said at the time.
“He never forgot a name, ever,” Kosienski said. “He believed in Meriden and he believed in education. A healthy Meriden educationally was a healthy community.”
Gooding was surprised to hear about his Hall of Fame induction and told the Record-Journal: “I do things because that’s what I enjoyed and I continue to do them. I’m extremely honored. I’m happy I got to work with all these people and got to know them.”
A celebration of Gooding’s life will be held Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Beecher & Bennett-Flatow Funeral Home, 48 Cook Ave. Burial will be private. Contributions in Gooding’s memory may be sent to the Boys & Girls Club of Meriden, 15 Lincoln St. Meriden, CT 06451.