Len Goodman

len and JenLen Goodman passed away on March 11, 2007 while out for a paddle. He was 76 years old and is survived by his wife Madeline, children and grandchildren. These few words do not do justice to Len and his contributions. Please see USK reflection "Quiet Heroes" and more importantly read the stories from those who have been touched by Len.

Len’s Impact as president of CKF (California Kayak Friends)

Here are excerpts from the club e-mails from paddlers who shared stories of Len. I have edited the heart-felt sentiments out to keep focused on the stories. Without exception, the e-mails indicated the sense of loss and how Len will be missed. In addition, members expressed their thoughts towards Len’s wife Madeline and Len’s family. 

We kayaked the Yukon with Len in 1996 for 11 days and spent lots of time  with this exceptional man.  He was 65 when we did the Yukon.  He will  be missed greatly. - Pam & Bill Schlotter

What sad news to hear about a wonderful man from Brooklyn. - Win Aldrich

When I first met Len he was paddling a pink kayak (faded purple?). That inspired the lyrics for “The Pink Kayak Song”. I have been singing that song at kayak festivals and around camp fires ever since. In one of Len’s messages to CKF he expressed how much he loved kayaking as he wrote “I love being on the water where each day is new” and how he loved “the motion of the sea”. His words ended up as the bridge in the song “MY California Kayak Friends”. Len is listed as co-author. When I told my son (Cody) what has happened he said, “Len was always nice to me. He treated me like a paddler, not some dumb teenager.” - Steve Wilson

My first contact with Len was a phone call.  He pulled me right into the group, inviting me to the May 2005 get together even though my kayak was not yet finished.  Everything I’ve been able to accomplish, all my paddling friendships, and all the fun and joy of kayaking is connected to Len. Just yesterday in Marina del Rey I met another kayaker who said he wanted to do the Anacapa crossing but wasn't sure if he was ready. I told him what someone told me two years ago. Contact Len and join CKF. The best way I can think of to honor him and keep his memory alive is to keep paddling, grow CKF. Love the ocean and make friends to share that love. – Will

I first met Len in 1997 when I first joined the club. At that time he was paddling the "infamous pink kayak". It was an old beat-up plastic Aquaterra Chinook that at one time was purple. We all laughed with Len about his "pink kayak" and he kept insisting it really was purple. That boat was the subject of much good natured kidding back and forth
between Len and I. We all know that he was the glue that kept the club running after Joanne turned it over to him. Every time he tried to retire, he got called back to be the prez. – Steve


Conversations with Len, while out paddling, were always interesting and pleasant.  He always made others feel welcome.  And of course he did a great job as MC of the sometimes lively CKF Fest gatherings. I remember the time he made his pool available for rolling instruction.  I attended one of the classes, which contributed significantly to my rolling ability.  A few weeks after the class, I went out and rolled 12 times in
succession.  I have Len's hospitality (and of course, the instructor) to thank. I always knew Len as a kind, generous, and thoughtful person. - Richard Henley


Len Goodman was the second CKF'er I ever communicated with, after founder Joanne Turner, who told me about CKF. That was back around 1997 or so, when I tried to get involved. Since I was on the road almost constantly then and the main club communication was via the mailed newsletter, I wasn't able to learn about events soon enough to actually do anything with CKF. I exchanged emails with Len "DOWN2THEC" Goodman, who was very helpful. I finally joined CKF again around 1999 or 2000 and started to go on some of the paddles. The next time I saw Len was at one of the rare CKF meetings. I guess he had just reassumed the presidency (re-coronated?) and was successfully trying to pull the club back together. Over the years, we saw him on day paddles, after paddle lunches and at the annual CKFests. I always enjoyed his humor and receiving frequent email jokes.   Most of us remember Lens' old battered old pink kayak and rickety VW Bus, both replaced by state of the art conveyances in recent times. I think that Len was a Korean war era veteran with the US Navy, on destroyers, and successfully downsized into kayaks.  He had a successful career in the textile industry, mostly in sales, in several states, before finally settling in California.  He was a man who made his mark in the world, then came back to help others. He will be remembered by us for keeping the club solvent and gently mediating conflicts, with a light hand on the tiller, to keep us paddling along on a good course.  He was always bringing in ideas and people to make things better.  Len was the ideal CKF ambassador to pull all kinds of people together.  He didn't take himself too seriously or let his ego adversely impact us. I heard that he was a ball of fire in earlier years and the heart and soul of CKF-- I guess that he will always be that. – George & Carol Miller


He was the real engine inside CKF when he took leadership over from Joanne. I first met him around 1992 when he produced the tri-fold CKF info piece that we took around to sporting goods stores and handed out to people we met on the beach to encourage them to join the club. He initiated so many fun outings; even a camping trip to Joshua Tree! There was a wonderful houseboat trip at Lake Powell for 13 or so club members that he and Madeline came on. It was always more fun if Len was there. The paddlefest at Alamitos Bay must go on this year in his memory. He led us through LA Harbor one day when the tall ships arrived and we got to enjoy the fireboat's spraying. So many memories of him & Madeline and our Eastern Sierra's campouts to paddle at Mono Lake, Lake Tenaya, June Lake, etc. It is really hard to think that I'll never see him again. - Ann Berkery


By far, it is safe to say that without Len, California Kayak Friends wouldn't be the great club it is today, and quite possibly, it may not have even continued if it wasn't for his leadership and efforts as the president. Not only did he help us, but I remember him occasionally mentioning doing volunteer work for a variety of organizations. One long ago volunteer job he seemed most proud of was knocking on doors to help campaign for JFK. I also remember him mentioning that he enjoyed a lot of time with his family, especially with grandchildren more recently. - Duane Strosaker


I remember back when I was paddling more often, that Len, trying to make me feel part of things, asked me to paddle around the breakwater with him one day when everyone else was practicing rolling and rescues.  He didn't know me, but I think he sensed that I would enjoy that very much....which I did. He had that sense of things and people. I was moved when he started meetings with the Pledge of Allegiance.  I was moved when his spray skirt got stuck when he was upside down once, and I believe Steve or someone had to use the hand of God maneuver to right him.  In the brief time I knew him, I was drawn to him.  Didn't want to lose him then. He served. He was a gentleman. - Skip Muns


My first personnal encounter with Len was when the interface to the CKF webpage changed. I wrote to who I thought was the webmaster and said how much I liked the changes. The next thing I know, Len wrote back saying the webmaster quit and would I take over! He was great at presuading people to join in and I spent the next 5 years as the webmaster.

Len had a great sense of humor and I always enjoyed getting his emails with jokes (although I usually had to make sure no one under 18 was nearby when I opened them).

It's funny how a guy with a purple Kayak always managed to schedule the CKF Fest the same day as the Gay Pride Parade in Long Beach!

Len was a real "people person" it didn't matter if he just met you, he made you feel like you've been friends for years - he'll be greatly missed.
- Ray Roux


I have known Len for more than 10 years, as I was in CKF on and off in that time. Lately, it has been all "on." When I lived in Northridge, I lived about a block away from Len, and I would always see his old VW Bus in the neighborhood. One of my greatest days on the water was when Len and I paddled out of CIH and headed north toward Ventura Harbor. It was just Len and I that day, because I launched about an hour later than most other people were launching. The conversation was so nice, so interesting, and so pleasant... Len was one of the easiest people to get along with I ever met. As we headed back toward the harbor, we came across a lone whale, that was quickly swimming South. We tried to follow at a distance, but within a very short time Len was several hundred yards ahead of me. When Len realized this, he waited for me to catch up. The whale continued south, passing through the inside of the breakwater on his way Mexico bound.
After the paddle, we had a nice lunch at the CoCos by the harbor. I remember it well, because we both thought we were being rebels by not going to Daddios the traditional post paddle eatery! I will never be able to see a whale without thinking about that day with Len. - Kevin B. Harris


Several years ago, Len hosted a trip to see the Tall Ships in San Pedro Harbor.  Since we were new to CKF, we wanted to make a good impression and arrived one hour ahead of the posted launch time.  The launch time came and went and finally the group launched.  We started to wonder about this group, but Len was so nice he wanted everyone to meet and feel comfortable before we started our paddle.  The highlight of the trip was not really the tall ships, but our encounters with law enforcement. Somehow our paddling group of a dozen or so, attracted the attention of the Coast Guard, Harbor Patrol and cruise ship security.  We enjoyed Len's warm hospitality in helping us meet new CKF friends. About a year ago, Len was paddling with the Old Farts group.  While changing his clothes, Len unintentionally "flashed" some women including CKF paddler, Jean Drew.  Steve Holtzman wanting to be a good citizen decided to take action and protect the innocent bystanders at the beach from future "flashes" by Len.  So, Steve asked me to send Len a "changing station."  (A "changing station" is an oversized poncho that we use to cover ourselves while changing.)  Steve officially presented the "changing station" to Len at an impromptu CKF ceremony.  Len graciously accepted it and promptly sent me a hilarious thank you note.  I wish I'd kept the note because we got such a good laugh from it. Len's wit and good nature will be missed at our CKF events. -  Barb Tomita & Ken Fry


As so many people have already observed, Len had a wonderful way of making people feel welcome.   He always greeted each one of us and found out what was on our minds regardless of whether it was our first paddle with a CKF group or whether we had been around long enough to be in a leadership role. Everyone felt significant after talking to Len. The club activities that Len promoted were learning experiences that developed our skills as individuals and as members of a team.  And for some reason, learning that we could depend on each other on the water often inspired personal friendships that went beyond our mutual obsessions with kayaking. Len was always looking out for the interests of other people.  He encouraged advanced paddlers to take the time to host events for the less experienced. He encouraged us to participate in Heal the Bay clean up events (which is what attracted me to the club back in 1998).  And he was busy behind the scenes connecting people with common interests that he felt would benefit the kayaking community. Every time I wrote a trip report, Len would send me a little comment showing his appreciation.  I imagine that such encouragement was one of his trademarks, and that everyone who took the time to share their experiences was complimented.  Len inspired us to be creative. Len had a ribald sense of humor.  He was a fun loving rascal who did not take life too seriously.  That's not to say that I didn't wince at some of the things he sent to me, but more often than not I ended up with a smile on my face even as I shook my head.  Through his humor I saw that we can afford to laugh at ourselves because we accept each other as friends.  Sometime a good laugh is the best gift you can share with someone. Len was the mortar which cemented our club together.  Hopefully he created a foundation which will last a very long time. - Patrick Martin


I will always remember Len's support and enthusiasm for my passion of traditional kayaks and skills. His leadership was an important part of our club. Len's presence and love of kayaking will be missed but his spirit will always be with us.  - John Petersen


I never knew Len on a personal basis. Never shared a paddle together. Never shook his hand. And yet, I felt as though I did know him. I felt his presence and leadership through his many and varied emails and cheerful banter. We did exchange a couple of off list emails , and his dry wit and humor were much appreciated by this fellow ex Brooklynite. Most of all, his passion for his adopted sport inspired us to become better kayakers, and better people. - JerryG


I didn't have the opportunity to paddle very much with Len, so when I think about him, he's on the beach or in the parking lot (safe on dry ground) and he's laughing or smiling with the sort of assurance of someone who's been around long enough to have figured out what is important.  Without saying it, there was always a twinkle in his eye that reminded me not to sweat the small stuff.  Just one of many, many gifts he gave to those around him.  - Jen Kleck

When I first joined CKF, I had been kayaking for a number of years but  quickly realized how little I really knew about the sport. Len always encouraged me  and was so very supportive in my efforts to become a more skilled and  knowledgeable paddler. It will be difficult to imagine him not at the other end of the  phone or computer or ocean swell. I will miss him, as will everyone he so  kindly touched in his lifetime.

For a long time to come, each paddle out of the harbor will be my own personal memorial to Len. - Carol Fallon


Mike and I only went paddling with Len once and that was on the Back Bay. We thoroughly enjoyed the great conversation with this wonderful person and from that one day felt that we knew him. - Sue and Mike Davis