Peter Goodrich ’89, who died Sept. 11, was one of the good guys.
By Tony Blasi
When I met Peter Goodrich ’89 13 years ago, the Bates College All-American was having a grand time tossing around the 35-pound weight like some major league pitcher throwing a baseball. Life was good as he broke track records and excelled in math and physics in Lewiston.
Goodrich was outgoing and intelligent, but what impressed me most, besides his athletic accomplishments, was his affability and humility. He was easy to like, because he liked people and treated them all with respect. That’s why teammates gravitated toward him and voted him track and field captain.
People who knew him recalled the 1989 graduate as curious, dedicated and competitive, but it was his gentleness that made a lasting impression on all of them.
His father, Donald, will miss his “big hugs.”
And now, unfortunately, we speak about him in the past tense.
Peter Goodrich was supposed to live a long and fulfilling life because he loved life. A group of evil men deprived Goodrich of a promising future and a life with his wife, Rachel ’90.
Goodrich, 33, boarded United Airlines Flight 175 for a business trip to the West Coast. He was products manager for MKS Software of Burlington, Mass. His plane was hijacked that terrible morning by fanatics who steered the plane into one of the towers at the World Trade Center in New York City, killing all the passengers on board.
Peter Goodrich was a person who would never understand how terrorists find life so cheap that they can kill on such a large scale. He had a place in his big heart for all those he befriended in and outside the field house.
“He really could see no evil,” Donald Goodrich said from his home in Vermont. “He expected the same from everybody else.”
Thirteen years ago, Peter Goodrich was 21 years old and stood 6-foot-1, 185 pounds. His massive frame and strength alone were impressive, but his modesty always came shining through.
During the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference Division III men’s track championship at Bates one year, Goodrich heaved the 35-pound weight an eye-opening distance of 60 feet, 2 3/4 inches. His lob erased the old meet record of 54 feet, 8 inches, and broke Bates’ 21-year-old record in that event.
The Williamstown, Mass., native ran track to get away from bullies who hassled him in high school. It didn’t take him long to excel at cross country at Berkshire Academy, where he caught the eye of the late, great Walter Slovenski, who coached the Bates track team at the time.
“I wasn’t very big, so I was picked on a lot,” Goodrich said at the time. “So in high school, I did track to do my own thing. I liked doing things by myself. I hated running, and as a result, to escape running workouts, I would slide over to the throwing events.”
Now Peter Goodrich is gone, and it’s just not fair to all of us who knew him.
“The runners nicknamed Peter ‘Bear’ because he was the biggest and most powerful guy on the team, but he was the friendliest,” recalled Peter Slovenski, who was an assistant coach at Bates and is now head track coach at Bowdoin. “He was an inspiration to the team.
“Peter was elected team captain because of the tremendous affection and admiration his teammates had for him. He was a marvelous team leader and teacher. He spent many hours of his practice teaching younger throwers. He would stay late after his own practice was over to coach his teammates.”
To this day, Bates men’s and women’s weight throwing events coach Joe Woodhead uses training tapes of Goodrich demonstrating his excellence in throwing events such as the discus and hammer.
“He was impressive,” said Woodhead. “ I considered him one of my assistant coaches. He would step in and help these kids. He never threw before he got to Bates.
“He was a great kid. His parents were great supporters. They came to all his meets. They came out to wherever he threw in the country.”
Goodrich’s exploits at track meets gave his loving parents an opportunity to be near him while Peter did “his own thing.”
“Athletics is a chance for parents to be involved,” said Donald Goodrich. “We loved being around him doing what he liked to do. He was a real competitor. He definitely enjoyed competition.”
And despite all that has happened since that terrible Tuesday, Donald Goodrich, a remarkable man who fathered a remarkable son, refuses to give in to anger and support massive retaliation against countries harboring terrorists.
“That accomplishes nothing,” said Donald Goodrich. “I don’t wish that on anybody else. There were a lot of wonderful people on those flights.”
And Peter Goodrich, a Bates All-American and gentleman, was one of them.
Tony Blasi is a staff editor and former sports reporter with the Lewiston Sun Journal. This column is reprinted with permission of the Sun Journal.