They called him "Mr. Goodwill"

The picture inserted is called "The Paycheck" by Norman Rockwell. The cheque in his hand reads "Goodwill". This is one of my all time favourite Rockwell images (for obvious reasons), and it now adorns my wall. Thanks, Dad.

This is a story that was published in the Sarnia Observer on Thursday, August 9th. I was very touched by the words the reporter wrote, and astonished to see such a beautiful article written about my dad's passing. I had to share it.

JACK POIRIER Thursday, August 09, 2007 - 16:00 Local News -

He was known as Mr. Goodwill. John Gifford, a 69-year-old Scotland native, devoted the better part of his working career to serving Goodwill Industries Essex-Kent-Lambton and the people it assists.

Following a lengthy battle with cancer, Gifford died last week at the Bluewater Health palliative care unit. His humble, yet fierce work ethic, served as an inspiration, says Goodwill executive director Kevin Smith.

"He was a man who was passionate about everything in his life," he said. "His legacy will live on."

Gifford served with the agency for 19 years, retiring in 1995. He was Goodwill's first executive director and was the architect of Goodwill's work experience program.

Gifford recently told an Observer reporter that the program helped prepare countless people for successful careers.

"Everything he did, he did with enthusiasm," Smith said.

He said Gifford worked hard to convince local employers to give Goodwill clients an opportunity. His work sowed the seeds for what is now a successful program that provides employment opportunities for people with barriers to employment.

Gifford also expanded the retail operation, moving from a small store on Victoria Street to a larger site on Christina Street.

Yet, he always credited his dedicated staff and committed board of directors for the agency's success.

He was recognized last year with an award named in his honour, the Gifford Goodwill Award, which recognizes local companies for hiring individuals with special needs.

"When he wanted to get something done, he made it happen," Smith said of Gifford. "He was a fighter."

His courageous battle with cancer surpassed doctors' expectations by more than three years.

Gifford also worked as an educator with Alexander Mackenzie high school. His community activism was well regarded, having assisted with the Highland Games and serving as a committee member with the Canadian Cancer Society.

Gifford also worked at State Farm Insurance and was a member of Elks Lodge, Masonic Liberty Lodge 419.

"John's passing is a loss to the community," said Smith. "We're going to miss his laughter and his passion for life."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dear Jo,

As I was perusing the internet today, I happened to run across your 2007 post, "They called him Mr. Goodwill." Needless to say, I really enjoyed the personal story of the man depicted by Mr. Rockwell, partly because my grandfather, Richard L. Swanson (whose signature adorns the check) was a close friend and colleague of Gifford. Shortly after the painting was completed, both he and Mr. Gifford were given the opportunity to meet Norman Rockwell; an event that my grandfather remembers so fondly to this day. As a memento, my grandfather was given a life-sized cardboard cutout of this delightful work, now a treasured family heirloom.