I first met Elsie May Goodwin at our club house in Venetian Gardens right after I moved there in 1983. The occasion was a biweekly potluck dinner for all members of the Venetian Gardens Home Owners Association. Finding that she, Wilma Groom and I had very much in common we became instant fast friends and until she passed away we celebrated our birthdays with a luncheon.
Elsie May was 26 years older than I but she was an up to the minute person and I felt no differences in our ages. She had a wonderful sense of humor and loved to get dressed up and go to the various activities we have in our Home Owners Association. She was always beautiful and I was jealous of her beautiful complexion. I am 78 and she had less wrinkles than I have when she passed away. She always helped out at our annual Golf Tournament, handing out soft drinks and hot dogs to the players and encouraging them on as they came by the club house.
She never married but was always surrounded by her many, many friends who loved her dearly. Through her closest friend, Helen Hamey Crittenden, I found out many things about Elsie May that I didn't know before she died. For instance, I knew her birthday was April 19, 1907 but I did not know that she weighed only two pounds when she was born and the Doctor sent her home with her parents, Irvin and Gertrude Oney Goodwin, in a shoe box to her grandmother's home in Manteca, and told them to enjoy her for as long as she might live. She soon graduated to a dresser drawer and continued to have excellent health until near her death on July 29, 1998 at the age of 91.
She even planned her ninetieth birthday party, invited probably 75 of her friends to the party and decorated all of the tables herself. It was a wonderful evening of dancing and singing.
Elsie May was always artistic - even as a young girl - when her friends wanted bicycles and scooters for Christmas she asked for - and received - a paint set in her stocking. Elsie May was raised in Ripon and graduated from Ripon High School. She then attended Modesto business College and upon graduation moved to Stockton and worked first for attorneys Joseph Tope and Ira Langdon. In 1940 she started to work as a clerk for Judge Frioux and later for Judge Robert Sullivan. In 1952 she worked in the Civil Division of the Municipal Court and in 1968 became Ass't. Chief Deputy of the Municipal Court, working under Mr. Michael Currey, until her retirement in 1970.
Elsie May has two cousins: Ben Goodwin of Manteca and Evelyn Prouty of French Camp. Helen Crittenden, Elsie May's best friend, is probably the person who is responsible for Elsie May leaving the money to us for our Gallery. Helen was always there for Elsie May when she had any problems. One time at breakfast after Elsie May had cataract surgery she raised the subject of her will and how she was going to leave everything to various charities except for special bequeaths which she had provided to remember her friends.
Helen then suggested that instead of leaving small amounts to her various charities why didn't she leave a substantial amount to one of her special interests where the amount would make a dramatic difference. Helen added that Elsie May had always expressed disappointment that the Stockton Art League had never had a home where they could meet, show the members work, have guest artists, and have shows, etc.
Then Helen added - they might even name it after you if you did something like that. Elsie May smiled, and said "that's a good idea - I hadn't thought about that before, but I have always hoped they would have a permanent meeting place instead of having to drive all over town."
Her new will, dated two months later, on October 11, 1992, stated as follows: To the Stockton Art League for the purpose of adding to their building fund for an art center.
We Thank You! Thank You! Thank You! Elsie May Goodwin and Helen Crittenden.
Always friendly with her beautiful Madonna-like smile. She was usually quiet but not shy. She also had a fun, lively spontaneous side.
One night when she, Jessie Gall, Ethol Simpson (Yenney) and Jeanne Robertson were rooming together in Asilomar, I was intrigued by the peals of laughter coming from their room. Climbing over our balconies, I joined them to find Elsie May flying around the room as she danced in the most beautiful negligee. A surprising and delightful show.
She was a dedicated painter. Always on time and hard working, she knew what she wanted to do with her paintings. We painted locally, as well as in Mendocino, the Monterey area, Cambria, Virginia City and other places. We always carried our paints with us for the Christmas Holidays in Asilomar hoping to find time for painting during that week. Prior to this she painted with Peter Blos in Santa Cruz
Because of her thoughtfulness her collection of large Chinese mud figures and other pieces will be painted in still lifes.
She grew up and was fond of Ripon. After her death, I found stamped in the bottom of a drawer of the antique dresser she left me, "The Goodwin Furniture Company, Manteca." This was from the room she called Grandma's room.
Also, who but elegant Elsie May would serve cocktails at a garage sale when she sold her house on Alpine Avenue?
Thank You, Elsie May, Joyce and Helen.