Forrest and Dorothy Goodenough Newspaper Obituary
Scores of Forrest and Dorothy Goodenough's former students came to Austin for the renaming of the 88-year-old auditorium at the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired as the Goodenough Performance Hall.
Dorothy Goodenough, a former Austin Symphony violinist and, like her husband, a music teacher at the school from 1952 to 1977, died in January of complications of Alzheimer's disease.
But the blind pianist Forrest Goodenough was hospitalized for a ruptured appendix in his daughter's hometown of Gravette, Ark., and was unable to attend the Aug. 14 dedication. Only when the ceremony was over did people learn that he had died that day of apparent heart failure. He was 86.
"He didn't want a sad funeral, but a big party, and that's what he got," said his daughter Crow Johnson Evans, a folk singer and longtime performer at the Kerrville Folk Festival. "While we were celebrating, he disappeared."
A composer of classical music whose works still are sold as sheet music on the Internet, Forrest Goodenough was born in South Bend, Ind., during World War I. Raised by his stenographer mother after his parents divorced, he lost his sight at age 5 and attended the Indiana State School for the Blind, where he learned piano repair and tuning, then a common occupation for blind people.
But he also learned to play the piano and later earned a master's degree in music composition from the prestigious Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y.
In the 1940s, he was a staff pianist at NBC radio, accompanied singer Frank Sinatra and other performers and played jazz in supper clubs all over New York City. Evans, his daughter by his first wife, Lucia Greer, recalled her father being a friend of jazz giant George Shearing.
Karl Miller, an Austin friend, is compiling a CD of Goodenough's recorded music with titles such as "Romanza for Violin and Piano" and "Chorale Fantasy for Orchestra."
"What he wrote is just quite lovely," Miller said. "It speaks to you directly. It doesn't have any pretensions about it."
In 1949, Goodenough accepted a professorship at Trinity University in San Antonio, where he met his second wife. They came to the school for the blind in 1952, she joining the symphony and he playing piano in clubs all over town. Some of his works were performed at the University of Texas.
"By 1960, he wasn't doing that much in professional music anymore," said Nancy Levack, a former West Austin neighbor. "His devotion was to the school and his wife. But we would often hear his music on KMFA," Austin's classical music radio station.
After the Memorial Day flood of 1981, when the Goodenoughs were retired, he restored two pianos soaked by the rampaging waters of Shoal Creek.
"I'm not really sure how long it will take me to finish," he told the Austin American-Statesman. "When you're blind, you spend just as much time planning as you do on the actual work."
He also made toys, built a cabin in Bastrop, and remodeled his kitchen working with a power saw late at night with the lights off.
"I called once and begged him to turn the lights on," Levack said. "I knew he didn't need it, but it would make me feel better."
Survived by his daughter, a niece and his first wife, private services for Forrest Goodenough were held this week in Arkansas.
Bob Tindle, a former music student at the blind school and a retired psychologist, will remember the Goodenoughs as quiet and unassuming musical minds.
"People who are highly creative generally have periods of anguish," he said. "But they never did. They were just always very joyful."
Published in Austin American-Statesman on Aug. 20, 2004