Mike Gooderham knew that his trip to Chiemsee, Germany, in June of 1992 with his wife, Patty, would be unforgettable.
After all it was the couple’s first trip to Europe.
What Mike, who passed away Sept. 24 at age 78, did not know as he prepared for the trip was that he and Patty were on the cusp of making National Ski Patrol history.
The couple went to Chiemsee to attend a meeting of the National Ski Patrol, which has divisions in the United States and portions of Europe. There the Gooderhams received news more exhilarating than a perfect jaunt down Anthony Lakes’ Rock Garden run — Mike was named outstanding alpine patroller and Patty received the outstanding auxiliary patroller award for 1992.
It marked the first and only time in the National Ski Patrol’s 82-year history that a husband and wife team received the prestigious awards the same year.
The announcement elevated Mike and Patty to emotional highs.
“When you get married and have kids … it’s that kind of feeling,” Mike told The Observer in 1992. “The only thing more rewarding would be saving a life. That would be the top of the pinnacle.”
Mike would go on to reach that pinnacle later in a remarkable life that was celebrated Saturday during a memorial service at the Lighthouse Pentecostal Church in Island City, one attended by 300 people.
Those who spoke at the service included Dave Campbell of La Grande, a member of the Anthony Lakes Ski Patrol. Campbell said Gooderham was revered at the Anthony Lakes Mountain Resort because of his skills and dedication.
“It was very comforting when you saw Mike there. You knew everything was going to be okay. Mike could do anything,” Campbell said.
Gooderham worked for Boise Cascade for three decades before retiring in 1999. He was the supervisor of BC’s roads crew his last 20 years with the company. After retiring, he did not step to the sideline, but instead stepped on the accelerator. He was at Anthony Lakes as a patroller almost every day it was open for skiing. He was always the first one there each day and the last to leave.
“The only way you could beat him (in the morning to the Anthony Lakes ski area) is if you slept there,” said Campbell, who is the head of the Southern Idaho Division of the National Ski Patrol, which includes Anthony Lakes.
He credits Gooderham with doing a remarkable job of providing instruction about first aid and more to fellow ski patrollers.
“Teaching and mentoring were his passions,” Campbell said.
Gooderham was such a good educator that it elevated the reputation of the Anthony Lakes Ski Patrol. He said that when people in the ski world find out a patroller is from Anthony Lakes, they automatically assume the individual “knows their stuff” because of the quality of instruction Gooderham provided.
In addition to volunteering on the ski patrol, Gooderham worked for many years as a volunteer firefighter for the La Grande Fire Department. Firefighters he worked with included Emmitt Cornford, now the LGPD’s interim fire chief. Cornford said Gooderham was a great person with remarkable energy and commitment.
“He was 110% all the time. He was always in fourth gear,” Cornford said.
The fire chief said Gooderham was often at the scene of calls before engines from the LGFD arrived. If Gooderham was not there, Cornford said he sometimes wondered if he was at the right place. The fire chief said Gooderham’s impact on the LGFD will be a lasting one.
“Our department is better and all of Union County is better because Mike and Patty decided to live here,” he said.
Patty said her husband had a way of making people comfortable in emergency situations because of his optimism and confidence.
“I always felt safe when I was with Mike,” she said.
Eastern Oregon University President Tom Insko, who worked with Gooderham at Boise Cascade, agreed. He said Gooderham had a type of confidence that gave him an endearing quality, one that did not overshadow others.
“He was confident but never in a way that made others feel unimportant,” Insko said.
Insko said Gooderham had a way of making people feel good about themselves.
“I always felt better after I talked to Mike,” he said.
Mike and Patty, who celebrated their 59th anniversary in August, first met as second-grade students at Greenwood Elementary School. Patty said they did not begin dating until after high school, but there a hint of things to come as early as grade school. Patty said that at Greenwood boys played a king of the mountain type game that Mike often won. It involved a race up small hills made of cinders from coal. The boy who won would select a girl to join him on top as queen.
“Mike always picked me to be his queen,” Patty said.
The Gooderhams have a son, Eric, of La Grande, and a daughter, Gretchen, of New Meadows, Idaho, as well as three grandchildren and one great-grandchild. In a letter from Gretchen that was read at Saturday’s service, she said her father always strove to be a part of the lives of his children and grandchildren.
“My father’s will to be part of our lives was as strong as his will to live,” she wrote.
This was apparent at La Grande High School and Eastern Oregon University soccer games when the Gooderhams’ granddaughter, Kara, was playing for the teams the past five years. Mike and Patty have attended almost all of her team’s home games over this span.
“Mom and Dad have always been part of the team’s cheering section,” Gretchen said.
Gooderham was saluted at EOU’s home game on Friday when the portable chair he always sat in as a spectator was set up there, holding flowers and a photo of him with his family.
Gooderham won a number of awards for his work as a first aid instructor and emergency medical technician, including Purple Merit Star award he received from the National Ski Patrol about a decade ago for saving a life of skier at Anthony Lakes. The award saluted Gooderham for the emergency medical care he provided for the skier, who suffered a serious leg fracture.
Patty said Mike was highly respected by medical professionals.
“A number have told me that if they got hurt on the hill, they would want Mike to be the first person to show up,” she said.