Killaloe – The greater Killaloe community is mourning the loss of one of its most dedicated and supportive volunteers who passed away unexpectedly last Tuesday afternoon while enroute to hospital.
Phil Godon, 78, was the consummate gentleman who gave willingly of his time, skills and knowledge to numerous organizations, not just in Killaloe, Hagarty and Richards (KHR) Township but beyond its borders as well.
A native of Sudbury who first came to the Valley with his wife, Cathy Lyons, to dog-sit for one of her friends, Mr. Godon loved the area and the couple decided to retire here in 2009 after careers in the federal government. Her friend from work had retired to this area and she and Mr. Godon would dog-sit for him occasionally and eventually fell in love with the community.
During one of those visits in 2008, knowing Mr. Godon would be turning 65 the following January, they saw a property for sale while out boating on Round Lake.
“We kind of looked at each other and said, ‘What do you think?’,” she recalled. “We saw the house, kind of fell in love with it, not as it was, but with what we saw we could do with it.”
Within 48 hours, and not considering the fact they still had their home in Ottawa, they bought the property which is in North Algona Wilberforce Township.
Although not active in volunteering in Ottawa due to their careers, they sought to meet new people and became very active in volunteering after moving to the area.
When she landed the role as a volunteer member of the board at the Training and Learning Centre in Eganville, she and Mr. Godon launched a Mobile Lab Learning Project for that organization. They followed that by becoming volunteers at the Killaloe and District Public Library (KDPL) and they created and launched the very successful Killaloe Kid’s Bookfest, featuring visits to Killaloe by prominent Canadian authors of children’s books.
Mr. Godon also loved being in the Knights of Columbus and working at their annual Free Throw competitions, volunteering in school, working at the desk at the library, building sets and acting in Stonefence Theatre, being active in Toastmasters, marshalling at the golf course, doing bookkeeping for the Ottawa Valley Creative Arts Open Studio, and enjoying being a member of the Killaloe Curling Club. His most recent project was helping with the development of the Reading Trail in Killaloe Pathways Park and taking on the position of president for the Killaloe Seniors Friendship Club.
Ms. Lyons said if she had to pick a particular program her late husband was most proud of being part of, it would be the Killaloe Kids’ Bookfest which ran from 2016 to 2020.
“He talked about that all the time,” she said. “He loved kids and the bonus for us was we got to know some amazing authors because they would come and spend time here.”
They both took up curling after their move to the Valley. A regular curler, she said earlier this year he had told her he was going to reduce his playing time to just once a week, and not start curling until after Christmas, and participate in the morning draws only.
“I think there’s messages in everything you don’t always see at the beginning,” she said of his decision to reduce his playing time.
“He was obsessed with chess and he actually saw curling as very similar to chess in terms of strategy and stuff,” she added. “Every time he got the chance to skip, he enjoyed doing that.”
Ironically perhaps, Ms. Lyons said she and Mr. Godon only recently participated in an end-of-life course where participants prepare for the last years of their lives on earth. They were one session away from completing that course when he passed away. Also, the day he died, they had spent the morning in Renfrew to put new wills together not knowing he had such little time left.
Ms. Lyons noted her husband had distanced himself from the institutional church a few years ago and embraced his Metis roots more strongly, finding a deeper and more meaningful spirituality.
“Sprinkle in lots of laughter, a zest for new adventures, a deep love of lifelong learning, dabbling in electrical work, plumbing and carpentry, a strong interest in all things computer, a deep appreciation for everyday beauty, Sudokus, Irish whiskey and milk chocolate-covered almonds – and there you have my beloved Phil,” she concluded.
Fran Watson, president of the Pembroke and Area Toastmasters Club, said Mr. Godon was an extremely active and key member of their organization since joining several years ago.
She said the club planned a tribute for their late colleague with members sharing their memories of him. Ms. Watson said she has known him for quite some time, explaining he was involved with the club in Ottawa when he lived there.
“He was a wealth of information because of the number of years that he has been in and he always wanted to share the information with the community,” she said. “That was his goal, to share with others what we are learning in Toastmasters and through all the various clubs he was part of in Killaloe as well.”
She said Mr. Godon had a very humourous side to him, despite seeming to be the quieter of the couple. In addition to improving one’s public speaking skills, Toastmasters develops leadership skills.
“As you take on various roles, you learn to become a leader,” she explained. “And that’s one thing that Phil was always expressing . . . he didn’t realize initially that’s what was happening to him. Then, when he realized that, he really saw the value of Toastmasters.”
Currently, Mr. Godon was the treasurer of the club.
Bil Smith, executive director of the Community Resource Centre (CRC) in Killaloe, knew Mr. Godon for eight or nine years and was proud to consider he and Ms. Lyons among his close friends.
He first met them through the Friends of the Killaloe Library and the Killaloe Kids’ Bookfest, noting they most recently partnered with him as the president of the Killaloe Friendship Centre.
“More than anything, Phil was a kind and caring person,” he said. “He and Cathy are the Killaloe
power couple of volunteering.”
As one of the partners in the new Killaloe Pathways Park project, Mr. Smith knows the many contributions Mr. Godon and Ms. Lyons made to that project.
“That was their dream to have this reading trail. Then it all came together as what we now know as Killaloe Pathway’s Park.”
Will Be Missed At Library
Nicole Zummach, the librarian/CEO at the KDPL, said, like so many others, she was heartbroken to hear of his death.
“He was a huge contributor to the library in a lot of ways, including even being on the desk as a volunteer,” she shared. “Cathy and he launched the Killaloe Kids’ Bookfest which was an incredible experience for so many kids in the community and really wouldn’t have happened without Phil and his energy, his laughter and his jester’s hat.
“There’s just so many things we’re going to miss about not having him part of the library family now,” she added.
Ms. Zummach said when she attended the soft opening of Killaloe Pathway’s Park on Monday, Mr. Godon and Ms. Lyons were very much on her mind.
“They were instrumental in helping shape the idea and getting it off the ground. It was certainly bittersweet to be there without Phil because he was such a champion of the community, of reading, of the library, and of the reading trail at the park.”
She firmly believes Mr. Godon would have been very happy today to see how his vision for the park has become a reality.
“When students from both schools were in attendance and you could just hear their voices ringing through the paths,” she said. “I was very touched by that I think that’s what exactly Phil hoped for the park.
One Of A Kind
Chris Neff, KHR’s community development co-ordinator, said Mr. Godon was a huge mentor to him, noting shortly after he took the job, he and Ms. Lyons approached him with their idea about Killaloe Pathway’s Park. After a snowshoe trip with the couple through the woods at Hoch Park, he discovered everything he had heard about them and their energy and ideas was true.
“To actually meet them in person and do a lot of stuff together . . . people sometimes don’t live up to expectations, but Phil was larger than life and I really bonded with him.
“And later, I found out that he and my father (the late Randy Neff) were really good friends through the Knights of Columbus,” he added. “That made me even closer to him.”
Mr. Neff said Mr. Godon was always extremely positive and very thoughtful, adding he always took the time to think things over and provide the best answer.
“It’s a huge loss for the community. Phil was so integrally involved in so many different things.”
He said Mr. Godon was one of those rare people who could take an idea or feeling and bring it to life, almost like an animator.
“Phil was the ultimate animator. He would take whatever was going on, light it up, make it exciting, and share his energy and that was so contagious. I think that’s why so many people bonded with him.”
Mr. Neff said Mr. Godon could also provide constructive criticism when necessary.
“Not a lot of people can ride that line and I feel Phil really embodied that well.”
Although it’s unknown to many people, Mr. Neff said the number of newcomers Mr. Godon and Ms. Lyons welcomed into their home and set them up with different clubs is truly amazing.
“I really admire that about them,” he said.
The late Mr. Godon is survived by his wife, Cathy, daughter, Elizabeth, stepdaughter, Grace (Josh) and grandchildren Reily and Payton. He was predeceased by his parents, Frank and Helen Godon, three siblings, Margaret, John and Lorna, and in-laws, Charles and Zoe.
A visitation was held yesterday, Tuesday, from 3 to 7 p.m. at the Zohr Family Funeral Home in Killaloe, followed by a private family service today (Wednesday).