Father, friend, judge, life of the party. Born on Nov. 21, 1934, in Winnipeg; died on Oct. 29, 2013, in Winnipeg, of cancer, aged 78.
Gil Goodman was born during the Great Depression, the third of three children for Icelandic-Canadians Bergthora and Gudmundur. His parents met while working for the Canadian National Railway in Winnipeg, and raised their children in a happy home. His mother had a wonderful sense of humour which Gil inherited, and which often came in handy during his long legal career.
Gil completed law school at the University of Manitoba in 1960 and joined the provincial attorney-general’s department in 1961. Like his parents, he met the love of his life at work: Marj Blondal was his secretary at the firm where he articled, and a single mother. They married in 1963, and at the age of 28 Gil became a father to Marj’s sons, 14-year-old Ted and 11-year-old Jim. Within three years, daughters Gillian and Erika joined the family.
Gil began his legal career as a Crown attorney in 1961, was appointed chief prosecutor for the City of Winnipeg in 1968 and director of prosecutions for the province in 1969. He represented the Crown in the Supreme Court of Canada in appeals of two high-profile cases: the theft of gold from the Winnipeg International Airport in 1966, and the murder of a St. Boniface police officer in 1969. The top court upheld the convictions in both cases.
By 1974, he was Manitoba’s assistant deputy attorney-general. His work was instrumental to the province’s reform of family law, and the establishment of a unified family court. In 1984, when he was sworn in as a justice of the Court of Queen’s Bench (Family Division), he spoke of how he wanted to make the world a more equitable one for his daughters.
When he was required to retire at 75, Gil worked on a memoir of sorts: “Ramblings of an oft wasted, but overall wonderful life (to date) mainly in Winnipeg.” This wonderful life was a very social one, marked by much laughter.
Every Saturday in the summer, Gil fit in a round of golf with his friends, topped off by a lengthy stop at the 19th hole. He arranged frequent lunches with colleagues and friends. And he was the heart of our family, organizing birthday parties and holiday celebrations and ensuring we all stayed connected.
Around the time he retired, Marj’s health declined dramatically because of advanced Alzheimer’s and she was moved to a personal care home. This was extremely difficult for Gil, who visited two or three times a day. She always had a smile for her beloved Gil, right until the end. In March, 2013, they celebrated 50 years of marriage. A month later, Marj passed away.
Six months later, Gil joined her. Although he had major surgery for bladder cancer in 2012, his passing left friends and family in disbelief. He had such a love of life, and such boundless optimism, that he seemed invincible.
Erika Goodman is Gil’s daughter.