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Apr 12, 2023

A Tribute to My Dad on His 107th Birthday

Gone 47 years, forgotten not even for a day

By Ed Goldman

My dad, Robert Goldman, was born on April 12, 1916. In the very unlikely event he’d have had a very long life, he’d be turning 107 today. But he died at 60 in June 1976 of colon cancer in Southern California. Two months later I was hired by the City of Sacramento to be its second public information officer in history and also left La-la Land behind.

Men in particular seem to have a fantasy of what it would’ve been like to know their fathers as young men. Mine was to know my dad as an older man—not 107, necessarily, but at least in his late 70s or even early 80s.

Edgy Cartoon
My daughter, age 4, in her grandpa’s fire helmet. She was born a decade after he died. Photo by Gail Malmgren.

I think we’d have continued to enjoy each other’s company. By the time he fell ill, I had already covered, as a very young newspaper reporter, murders, a jet airliner crash and innumerable fires. Because he’d been a New York City firefighter for 20 years, much of that stationed in Harlem (where I was born), he had far grittier war stories to bring to the table—specifically, a table on the screened-in patio he’d built in our backyard on the dreadfully named Mamie Avenue. 

In my second year as a reporter I worked an early shift and was able to join my dad and mom for dinner at least weekly, after which Pop and I would light up cigarettes, sometimes sip on a jigger or two (at most) of rye and recall the truly awful things we’d witnessed—or, in his case, participated in. 

For him, the memory of a terrified face, belonging to the young firefighter who’d fallen five stories and whom my dad worked to save for 45 minutes but couldn’t, stayed with him decades later.  For me, it was the aftermath of scenes of domestic violence, seeing the shot-up, knifed or burnt bodies of people who, once upon a time, had vowed undying love to his or her killer. 

The death scenes for both my dad and me were often in low-rent, high-crime areas. But the people who died there had once dreamed dreams and even laughed now and then.

I think if my dad had made it to his latter 70s, when I’d have been in my mid- 30s, we’d have spent some time recycling mutual war stories, possibly emending or enhancing them, as men have a penchant for doing as the years ratchet by.

But he enjoyed spending weekend afternoons watching western movies and (I’ll never understand this) golf tournaments, and always made me feel he was happy to have me join him. As a claims adjuster for Bekins Van Lines, his second career, he had cashed out a color TV—his first, and a seriously damaged one—and seemed content to overlook the fact that neither John Wayne nor Sam Snead was magenta in real life. 

When my father was ill but still mobile, we used to follow a routine when I visited him and my mom. 

We’d have dinner then he and I would walk through Mae Boyar Park, a tiny suburban greenbelt named for a long-gone community activist—and with her husband, Louis, a fervent supporter of Israel since its founding in 1948. 

We’d smoke the cigarettes that now weren’t likely to forestall his demise—though coupled with his two decades of smoke inhalation, may well have helped hasten that demise—and he, no doubt mindful of the end drawing near, would offer gentle philosophizing. 

I’d love to tell you that he spewed out epigrams worthy of Oscar Wilde or Buddha, but he was a humble man—and a piece of advice he gave me, the epitome of deceptive simplicity, was that when I felt low or defeated, as I often did (and often still do), to “keep on plugging, Eddie.”

It was only in the twilight of the day and his years that he called me Eddie instead of Ed, Edward or, his occasional fave, Sonny Boy. I loved them all and if I’d been a puppy would have recognized all of them as a summons.

When my dad’s illness and impending death were no longer deniable, we had a conversation in the hospital that I’ll cherish until it’s my own time to check out of the Life Hotel. 

“Dad, I think someday I’d like to write about your life,” I clumsily said. 


“Well, you’ve always been very private. Mom wouldn’t let you talk about your work when you came home because she was afraid it would scare me and my brothers.”

“And?” he repeated as he lit up another Old Gold cigarette.

“How would you feel if I wrote about you?”

He exhaled and actually made a smoke ring. He coughed lightly and said, “You have my permission.” Then he raised his eyebrow—a gesture I inherited—and asked if I planned to watch the Masters Tournament  on TV. I said I’d wait until he came home and we could watch it together.

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The first part happened but not the second. A few days after he was released he was so ill that his surgeon (and friend) sent an ambulance to take him to the hospital, for the last time. 

My brother Stuart, who had relocated from Seattle to be with him at the end, told me what our dad’s final words were.  As the crew was prepping to carry him out on a gurney, he said, “This is the last day for the babysitter.”

It’s now 47 years since my dad left the planet and I left southern California.

Stuart died of Hepatitis-C around 20 years ago, brought on by a transfusion administered by Baxter Laboratories.

In the intervening years, I lost my mom and 10 months later, my wife of 29 years, who missed meeting my dad by a year-and-a-half. They’d have liked each other. I absolutely know that.

But life goes on. And as I’ve done today, and will do at length in the time left to me, I’ll write about my father and the selfless, heroic life he lived. After all, he gave me permission.

Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).

Yes, Virginia

A Weekly Blog by Virginia Varela

President, Golden Pacific Bank, a Division of SoFi Bank, Inc.

photo by Phoebe Verkouw


While we’re only through the first quarter of 2023, what a start for SoFi! Here’s a quick recap of recent developments:

  • On February 2, 2023, we marked the one-year anniversary of SoFi Bank, N.A.’s officially becoming a chartered national bank by acquiring Golden Pacific Bancorp, Inc.  With that, I changed by work title from CEO of Golden Pacific Bank to President and Head of Community Banking of SoFi Bank.
  • Exactly one month later, SoFi was given a shout-out on the Fast Company’s prestigious annual list of the “World’s Most Innovative Companies for 2023.”  Of special note was SoFi’s achievements in the personal-finance category of innovation.
  • On April 3 of this year, SoFi Technologies announced its acquisition of leading Fintech mortgage lender, Wyndham Capital Mortgage.  This acquisition will “…allow SoFi to broaden its suite of mortgage products available to members, enhance unit economics, and take ownership of an intelligent and scalable platform that has set the industry standard for a fully digital mortgage experience,” according to SoFi’s news release.
  • And today, on April 12, 2023, SoFi Technologies, including its Golden Pacific Bank division, received a “BEST PLACES TO WORK” certification.  (Earlier in the year, Golden Pacific Bank was honored among the “Best Places to Work” by the Sacramento Business Journal.)

So it’s been an amazing ride—filled with work, excitement, and successes.  To quote Andy Rooney:  “Everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while you’re climbing it.”

I’m happy, I’m growing, and I am honored to be climbing the mountain with the SoFi team.

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