Mary Goodwin's newspaper lineage extended for generations. A direct descendant of a 19th-century Hartford Courant printer and publisher, she reported on the 1944 Hartford circus fire, and was involved with local education first as a reporter, then as public information officer for the Hartford Board of Education. She also served as The Courant's ambassador to a sister paper in England in 1949.
She died Tuesday at age 91.
Goodwin moved to the Seabury Retirement Community in Bloomfield about a year ago, said Fay Harris, a registered nurse who often cared for her. Goodwin previously lived in Glastonbury and East Hartford.
Harris said Goodwin often received visits from family and enjoyed watching historical documentaries and antiques shows on public television. Goodwin also maintained her independent spirit, Harris said.
"She would make her decisions about how her care went. You did things when she wanted," Harris said. "As long as she had the remote in control, she was quite happy."
Born on Christmas Day in 1916 to one of East Hartford's founding families, Goodwin was fifth in a direct line descended from George Goodwin, who ran The Courant from 1815 to 1836.
She worked at the Council of Foreign Relations in New York City from 1940 to 1943 on a war and peace studies project. In 1943, she returned to Hartford to join The Courant, where she led a colorful reporting life.
"Variety is the reward of a newspaper career, even as modest as mine," she wrote at the time of her 50th reunion at Mount Holyoke College, where she had received her bachelor's and master's degrees.
In 1960, while covering education for The Courant, the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education honored Goodwin for "her contribution to the broader understanding of public education."
In 1962, she started a 13-year stint as public information officer for the Hartford Board of Education. She remembered these years "as rather stressful, with rapid changes of superintendents, a major teacher strike, and an era of rapid economic and ethnic overturn in the school population. I still maintain from those days an admiration for good teachers and a belief in the importance of early-childhood education."
As a reporter, Goodwin covered a range of topics beyond education. She wrote, "I was never too good at the crowd scene but struggled with some, like hospital corridors after the Hartford circus fire."
She would succeed in other areas as well, acting as an ambassador to the paper's sister in Hertfordshire, England. The Courant and the Hertfordshire Mercury developed a relationship during World War II and Goodwin hand-delivered a scrapbook made by Courant staffers to the Mercury during her 1949 visit.
From England, Goodwin wrote articles about her travels, which were published in The Courant: "The Mercury itself is a Friday event. What remains to be said is that this part of England has a very up-to-the-minute fascination. Hertford practices a hospitality which leaves one breathless."
Even with all of her own accomplishments, her interview with poet Wallace Stevens when he was awarded the Bollingen Prize for Poetry left quite an impression on her.
"The shortest interview I ever wrote was a phone call to Wallace Stevens when he won," she wrote. "I remember just where I sat when he hung up with a sort of rimed couplet: 'I have nothing to say except hurray.'"
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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