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Sat, Jul 26, 2014

WHITTLE: Goodrich left a lasting legacy of goodwill

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Jack Goodrich was a miracle-making man!

My observation of Jack’s service to mankind began back in the early 1990s, on a cold winter night, with sleet and freezing rain pelting down as I was pumping gas into my car.

That’s when my newspaper associate Ben Weber pulled up at the pumps, got out of his vehicle and approached.
His subsequent conversation sent chills down my spine, and that was not due to ice and cold.

“Dan, I’ve just been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, 30 minutes ago, at the doctor’s office,” Ben began with tears mixed with sleet forming on his cheeks. “Will you pray with me?”

“Sure Ben, I’ll be happy to pray with you,” as I started to replace the nozzle back in the pump.

“I mean pray right now, right here,” Ben requested.

Truth is, Ben’s request not only shocked me, but embarrassed me for a second or two.

We bowed heads and clasped hands. I hung on as Ben began the most profound soulful prayer I’ve ever heard, before or since. This very young man was really hurting.

“Father God, the Bible says when two or more are gathered, and I know that Dan Whittle is also a praying man, I lift up my body and soul for Your healing,” Ben began.

By this time, tears mixed with freezing rain were streaming down my face too.

Ben then put an addendum on his prayer that would ultimately change my course in life too.

“Gracious heavenly Father, you know we have a newborn son, a little wife and we’re not old enough to have accumulated any savings. So if you don’t see fit to heal my brain tumor, I pray to be able, some way, to leave a nice warm home for my wife and infant son.”

With that, Ben asked me to pray.

“Father God, this is Ben’s friend, what we’re asking here tonight in the freezing snow and sleet, are miracles,” I began. “In the Good Book, it explains you and your son, Christ, are the source of miracles that have baffled mere mortals since eternity began. So Lord, in Christ’s holy name, we claim the miracles that you have for Ben and his little family. …Amen!”

There was no sleep at the Whittle household that night. But by daybreak, I had a plan. You be the judge where that plan came from.

As soon as 8 a.m. hit, I called on a man I had been reading about in the newspaper ‑‑ a man named Jack Goodrich, who had recently co-founded the Rutherford County Habitat for Humanity home-building ministry.

“Mr. Goodrich, can you come by the newspaper office sometime today,?” I asked. “I have a situation that may be of special interest to you and your new Habitat chapter.”

That afternoon, after explaining Ben’s plight, Mr. Goodrich advised he’d take the situation that night before Habitat’s then new board of directors.

“It’ll take some bending of the rules, some flexibility, but I’ll get back with you,” responded Mr. Goodrich, who by this point, insisted I call him Jack.

The next morning, Jack returned to the newspaper plant, saying, “Yes, we’ll help build Ben Weber his house, but it will take the entire community to raise money for the costs.”

Next step was to approach our newspaper publisher, Ron Fryar, about whether or not we could crusade in the news columns for readers to donate funds for the “Ben Weber Habitat Home.”

With a game plan in place, Habitat volunteers from throughout Rutherford County began showing up in record numbers, pounding nails, sawing wood, installing windows and insulation. They were working rapidly, trying to get the special house completed.

But Ben was getting weaker as construction was taking place.

One afternoon, Ben called from his hospital bed.

“Come out, Dan, we need to talk,” Ben instructed.

Ben looked very pale, with tubes running in and out of his body, when he weakly informed me: “Dan, I’m trying, but I don’t think I can make it until they finish she house. Will you carry on seeing that it happens?”

Ben ultimately lived to within two weeks of seeing the final siding go up on his family’s beautiful new warm and snug “Ben Weber Habitat House.”

But, this was only the beginning of “miracles.”

Being emotionally spent the afternoon after Ben’s funeral, I went to Toot’s Restaurant to have a glass of wine. I didn’t know one person by name who worked at Toot’s.

After a few moments, managing/owner Wade Hays stopped by my table, asking why I looked so tired and despondent. So I shared that I just left Ben Weber’s funeral, and was trying to get a grasp of all the miracles that had gone into the community’s financing and constructing The Ben Weber Habitat House.

After Wade and I shared for about 20 minutes, the restaurant man indicated he had an idea, but needed to talk to his then business partner Jim Demos, of Demos Restaurant fame.

The next morning, Wade called to have me come back to his restaurant after I got off my newspaper deadlines for the day.

“Mr. Demos and I have agreed to sponsor and supply the food to start an annual fund-raising campaign to construct at least one Habitat home per year somewhere in Rutherford County. Wade informed. “And we’ll call the cause ‘Whittlemania’ in honor of the newspaperman who helped crusade to the entire community for resources to construct The Ben Weber Home.”

That stunned me ‑‑ not just the cause, but naming the cause “Whittlemania.”

Over the next 17 years, the two restaurants and special funding from the Charity Circle ladies of Murfreesboro, along with publicity provided on WGNS Radio and the newspaper, all helped fund and build 17 Whittlemania-sponsored Habitat for Humanity homes throughout Murfreesboro, Smyrna and La Vergne.

We recently lost Jack Goodrich at age 91. Our love and condolences go to his beloved bride, Millie.

During Jack’s 10-year tenure at the helm of Habitat, 40 Habitat homes were constructed throughout Rutherford County.
Today, more than 100 Habitat homes have been completed in our community, as a result of Jack Goodrich’s Habitat home-building ministry he co-founded back in 1989.

I miss my buddies, but take solace in knowing Jack and Ben are together in heaven, talking and sharing about the miracle now known as “The Ben Weber Habitat House,” that ultimately received national exposure in the news media.
Ben and Jack helped educate me that the media can be used as a positive tool to help improve our very caring and sharing community.

Amen!

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ben weber, dan whittle, goodwill, jack goodrich
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