On June 10th, 1997 my father, Philip Goodyear (1941-1997), passed away due to an accident that occurred while he was volunteering to time racers in a town run. He was 56 years old.
Part of my process of remembrance in 2017 was transcribing a graduation speech he gave at Pascack Valley High School in Hillsdale, NJ back in 1985 (luckily found on an old VHS tape). Prior to the speech, he decided to conduct an experiment to discover the virtues of the class of 85’. After the data from extensive surveys was collected and analyzed, it was clear that the most impressive trait was their ability to balance the social, physical, intellectual, and emotional aspects of their lives. He shared the results with everyone at graduation while articulating his vision of the good life:
“What is the most important quality that the students of the class of 1985 have? They have balance like a lever system – I had to get some physics in there, you know? And it is my estimation that they are keeping it level [holds his hands up imitating a level]. Now the Gremlin is my symbol of balance. When we get too deep or carried away in one aspect of our life we can upset the balance. What I wish, for all of you, is that you can recognize the importance of balance in helping you to establish a well-rounded life, and you never let one aspect of life overpower all the others”.
Warrior (PVHS Yearbook) 1987
My father did his best to exemplify this balance. At the Valley he was a dedicated and beloved physics teacher, football coach, mentor, and colleague for more than 30 years. He had other jobs as well: his own business, Goodyear Video Service, and his gig at ABC (Good Morning America) during the summer. Through GVS he quickly became a legendary T.V. repair man which took up a lot of his time. But he also managed to do a great deal for his community, friends, church, and, of course, family. Indeed, my sister and I always felt like he was present in my life despite all his commitments. Luckily he was able to find some time for himself in the yard, gym, and beach. And he was a lifelong learner who earned a Masters in physics and taught at Ramapo College for many years. Every year a student who embodies this kind of rare and delicate balance at Pascack Valley receives the Philip Goodyear Award.
I continue to be amazed by the endless stories of how my father’s ability to balance his life inspired others to balance their own. I heard plenty of these stories while he was alive. But after his death the number dramatically increased and gave me a glimpse into the vast influence he had (see some below and feel free to add some more!). Such examples have been profoundly consoling to me and my family, and demonstrate beyond a doubt how good people survive death by living on through the good they inspire in others.
Life is indeed fragile and can end at any time. All too often we forget this and get caught up in narrow concerns that prevent us from living as comprehensively as we can. Let us then take inspiration from my father’s eccentric totem, The Gremlin of Balance, in order to achieve a high degree of well-rounded, comprehensive growth during our short time here on Earth.
One of the many wonderful Gremlin drawings by my father that would appear on his physics exams.