Part 1: The Beginning

Part 1: The Beginning

My mother is a well-educated native Italian who was born and raised in central Milano, and is a survivor of several “close calls” with death during World War II. My father was a native of Oklahoma and was raised in a “grapes of wrath” family of migrant farm workers.

My parents met in Italy in 1952 when my father was stationed there with the U.S. Army and after his discharge they were married in 1953 in Milano. They both immediately traveled to England by train and crossed the Atlantic on the Queen Mary. My mother was processed as a new immigrant at Ellis Island, New York, after which they drove to California and settled in Fresno. My father wanted to go to barber school, but my “aristocratic” mother rather forcefully made sure that he took advantage of the generous GI Bill education benefit. He graduated from Fresno State College in 1963 and became a high school teacher at McLane High. He was the first Goodall to graduate from college.

My parents did not attend church, and so my early years of church life were the result of the purposed influence of my grandparents. My maternal (i.e. Italian) grandfather arranged for my mother and her three children to return to Italy in the summer of 1961 to meet his new grandchildren and, particularly, to make sure they were properly baptized into the Catholic Church, which took place at his home parish in Minerbi, Italy. I was four years old. Unknown to my grandfather, who died in 1969, that event would prove to be my one and only formal experience with the Catholic Church. Following our trip to Italy, my paternal grandmother made sure I attended her church in Fresno, which happened to be Pentecostal. I attended this church for about five years with my older brother, Keith, and my younger sister, Elaine. Every Sunday morning the church bus would stop in front of our home on Swift Avenue and honk the horn. On cue, we would all three run out and climb onto the bus to go to church and then be delivered back at home several hours later.

My parents divorced when I was eight, my mother remarried when I was nine, and my father died of acute arthero-sclerosis when I was ten. After his death we lost touch with anyone on his side of the family, including my grandparents. We didn’t go to see them and they didn’t come to see us. It just sort of ended when my father died. It was also at this same time that my siblings and I stopped attending my grandmother’s Pentecostal church. We just stopped responding to the Sunday morning bus honk and eventually the bus honk stopped too. At this early age I effectively shut off the idea of faith in God. I didn’t consciously deny God. I just didn’t think about God. For the next 38 years I characterized myself agnostic.

I am a Civil Engineer by profession with a Master of Science degree in Structural Engineering from UC-Berkeley (1980). After interning for several years with the Santa Fe Railway Company in 1978 and 1979, I worked my entire professional career of 33 years with Santa Fe Railway Co, which merged in 1995 with the Burlington Northern to become BNSF Railway Co. I completed the final 15 years as the Chief Engineer of BNSF’s South Region, which comprises the tri-corridors of Chicago to the Gulf of Mexico, the Gulf of Mexico to California, and California to Chicago. My span of responsibilities included an annual budget exceeding $1B and approximately 4000 field employees. I retired from BNSF in May of 2012 at the age of 55 and am now at the beginning of my “second half.”

I met my wife, Robin, while working in northern Arizona in late 1980 during my first year with Santa Fe. After receiving my first promotion to Flagstaff, AZ, in early 1981, we were married in an outdoor ceremony on the San Francisco Peaks on October 2, 1982. We have four children: Amanda was born in Temple, TX, in 1989; James was born in Hoffman Estates, IL, in 1993; Amelia was born in Kansas City, MO, in 1995; Jayne was born in Southlake, TX, in 1997. Even though Robin was raised as a Methodist, our marriage and family life did not include faith in God or church. I became completely identified with my work at the railroad.

My work was my god.

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom 5:8)

Read Part 2