Mechanic 03

Gerald "Jerry" Burke Goodwin

July 10, 1935 ~ July 30, 2022 (age 87)

Obituary

A memorial service may be held in the future, once details are confirmed, this web page will be updated.


Gerald “Jerry” Burke Goodwin, 87, of Baker City, Oregon, passed away on the evening of Saturday, July 30, 2022. He will be interred at Mt. Hope Cemetery in Baker City, Oregon.

Gerald was born on July 10, 1935, to Arthur and Leila (Harder) Goodwin in Walla Walla, WA. He spent his early years growing up in Toppenish, WA, and Milton Freewater, OR; at 16 years old, he moved to Baker and attended Baker high school, where he met his future wife, Donna Marlene Kennedy. After dating for four years, they married on July 8, 1956, and made their home in Baker for the next 66 years.

Jerry worked at Chevrolet garage for two years after high school; after Jerry and Donna were married, Jerry was pursued by Harold Clark of Clark Auto Electric to take a position working for Harold; sixteen years later, on July 1, 1972, Jerry and Donna decided to purchase Clark Auto Electric, and they spent the next 50 years owning and operating the shop, Jerry never really retired.

Jerry was the father of three girls, Marie, Linda, and Gail; he also had four grandsons. He became a Mason in Baker lodge #47 in 1956, and before his passing, he was recognized as the oldest member of the Masons.

Boston Red Sox was the die-hard team he stuck with through thick and thin. A very kind and caring man, Jerry was always there to help; he was quiet and always made you wonder what he was thinking, yet he was very quick-witted. Jerry and Donna were truly inseparable, whether at the shop or out on Sunday drives. Any free time that Jerry had was spent with his family and Donna. He was the kind of man who loved to work; he also liked to sleep and read when he had the time.

He is survived by his wife Donna, daughter Marie and her husband Kevin, and their two sons Parker and Dalton; his daughter Gail, her husband Ken, their two sons Austin and Derek, and his son-in-law David Dumas.

Jerry is preceded in death by his parents, Arthur and Leila Goodwin, his sister Betty Stere and his middle daughter Linda Goodwin Dumas.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Baker Masonic Lodge #47 through Gray’s West & Co. Pioneer Chapel at 1500 Dewey Ave., Baker City, OR 97814.

 


Below is an article from the Baker City Herald written on April 15, 2022, by Jayson Jacoby:

Half a century of service: Jerry and Donna Goodwin selling Clark Auto Electric

 

Jayson Jacoby/Baker City Herald

And for half a century, like as not, he would.

In the black of night on a remote road in a snowstorm, if that was necessary. And always with a 
smile.
Quite often Jerry wasn’t alone when he arrived to rescue a stranded motorist. His wife, Donna, was 
with him.
For 50 years the Goodwins’ business, Clark Auto Electric, has been a Baker City fixture.

An icon, really, with its brick building, its lighted “Carburetor Repairs” sign high on the west 
wall, and perhaps most memorable, the white jackets that Jerry and his crew of mechanics wore.

Why white jackets, in a job where grease and oil are ingredients as essential as flour and butter 
are to a baker?

Donna, 88, just laughs.

“I don’t know, with that kind of work,” she said. “You couldn’t get that kind of dirt out.” The 
origin of the jacket, if not its color, Donna can explain.

Jerry’s connection to Clark Auto Electric actually spans well over half a century.

(Jerry, 86, whose health has diminished in recent months, lives at Memory Lane Care Homes in Baker 
City.)

In the summer of 1956, Jerry, then 21, started working for Harold Clark. Harold’s father, Charlie 
Clark, started the business in 1930, living upstairs while running the shop below.

Harold Clark and his mechanics wore blue jackets, Donna said.

Uniforms, she said, were commonplace in many types of businesses in that era.

Attendants at service stations — when they actually provided many services, such as washing your 
window and checking your oil — wore uniforms.

Donna said her husband liked the jackets — “anything to keep their clothes clean,” she said — and 
he maintained that tradition after the Goodwins bought Clark Auto Electric from Harold Clark on 
July 1, 1972.

“When he latches onto something he never lets go,” Donna said of her husband.

She said they never considered doing anything else — not after buying an established business where 
Jerry already had 16 years of experience by 1972.

But with Jerry’s health deteriorating over the past several months, Donna said there was no option 
but to sell Clark Auto Electric.

They hope to soon finalize the transfer of a business that was, as the Goodwins’ daughter, Marie 
Guy, puts it, “part of the family.”

When it’s suggested that the repair shop, at the corner of Resort Street and Auburn Avenue, was 
something of a second home for the couple, Donna shakes her head and smiles.

“More like a first home.”

Part of the family
Donna sits in the office, near the southwest corner of the building, where she has spent so many 
thousands of hours.

She watches a few desultory spring snowflakes float past on the morning of Thursday, April 14.

Marie, who is standing nearby with her husband, Kevin, gestures to the traffic rolling past on Main 
Street.

That, she recalls, was part of “The Gut.” She remembers slinking down in her seat as her parents 
participated in that great Friday night ritual of small towns, her dad driving and her mom beside 
him, sharing a bottle of soda pop.

Donna laughs, as though she’s surprised that her daughter would divulge that particular story among 
so many others.

“Now it all comes out,” Donna said.

It’s a small space, this office, maybe eight feet by five.

The desks are littered with papers — receipts, bills, invoices. Conspicuous by its absence is a 
computer.
Donna, who has kept the books for Clark Auto Electric for half a century, doesn’t use one. Never 
has.
“You can see my computer system,” she says with a grin as she sweeps a hand across the top of the 
desk.

Donna learned to keep the accounts from Harold Clark.

In 50 years she’s never deviated from the system he taught her. Nor did she ever contemplate, say, 
remodeling the office.
“It hasn’t changed a bit,” Donna said. “I just love that. If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.”

That constancy, that adherence to the ways that work and continue to work no matter the miracles 
that technology promises, permeates the Goodwins’ story.

Marie, who owns a nursery near Gaston, south of Portland, with Kevin and their sons, Parker and 
Dalton, remembers that her dad’s routine was as reliable as the finest Swiss watch.

He came home for lunch at 11:30 — the squeal of his brakes announcing his arrival.

After lunch he’d head back to the shop at noon, work until 5 or so, return home for dinner and then 
drive back to put in another five hours or so getting somebody’s rig running.

The schedule might sound grueling, if not inconceivable, to anyone who hasn’t devoted themselves to 
their business, their livelihood.

But Donna just shrugs at the idea that there was anything unusual.

“When you’ve got a small business you’ve got to work together or you don’t make it,” she said. “I 
was with him most of the time. I liked being with him.”

Marie said her parents have always been a team.

“It wasn’t just dad,” she said, looking at her mom. “It was you and dad.”

‘He couldn’t say no’
The stories are legion of Jerry Goodwin rescuing drivers stranded by a mechanical malady. He never 
advertised, beyond having his number and address in the phone book.
Yet travelers who couldn’t locate Baker City on a map seemed always to find their way to Clark Auto 
Electric.

No matter if it was midday or midnight.

“When people needed help he just couldn’t say no,” Donna said. “I can’t say how many times he was 
out after dark on some highway, under a car.”

“That was just dad,” Marie said. “He is all about customer service.” Which meant a smile.
Always.

“He said always put on a smile for a customer,” Marie said.

Given the stability of their business, it’s not surprising that Clark Auto Electric had several 
employees who worked for the Goodwins for a goodly portion of the time they owned it.

Clayton Young’s tenure was 35 years, Donna said, and there were a few others who stayed for 20 
years or so.

The business generally had no more than five mechanics on staff, Donna said. “Six, counting me,” 
she said.
Although Donna didn’t wield wrenches, she did often play a vital role in her husband’s repairs.

Jerry is color blind.

For a mechanic whose jobs frequently involve splicing wires with various colors of insulation, that 
condition can be troublesome.

Donna said it wasn’t uncommon for Jerry to call for her — sometimes when she was in the office, 
occasionally when she was home — to confirm which wire was, say, red.

More recently, Donna said Jerry Hansen, who has worked at Clark Auto Electric for several years, 
has been a great help as the Goodwins prepared to sell the business.

A marriage of nearly 70 years
Donna, who grew up near Medical Springs, first noticed Jerry Goodwin when they were assigned to the 
same physics class at Baker High School.

She was a year ahead, graduating in 1952.

“He liked older women,” Donna said with a smile.

Jerry’s first job was with Kirkpatrick Motors, a Chevrolet dealership in Baker City. He took the 
job with Clark Auto Electric two days before he turned 21.
“The rest is history,” Donna said.

The couple were married that same year, 1956.

Jerry was a well-established employee by 1972, when Harold Clark sought to sell Clark Auto 
Electric.

Donna said that although Jerry “was the logical one” to take over the business, the couple had to 
ponder the decision.

“We had to sleep on that one,” she said.

Once they actually owned the business, though, they never seriously considered doing anything else.

The couple were happy to raise their three daughters — Marie, Gail, who lives in Wilsonville and 
has two sons, and Linda, who has passed away. The Goodwins were faithful spectators at Baker High 
School basketball games, although Jerry was called away once in a while to fix somebody’s car.

The work, Donna said, was rewarding.

Not that Jerry ever sought any recognition.

“Jerry is a very humble person,” she said. “He’s not a talker.”

Still and all, Donna said she has treasured the conversations she’s had recently with longtime 
customers, some of whom, she said, were nearly brought to tears when they learned the Goodwins are 
selling Clark Auto Electric.

Some left with a memento — a white jacket or an old part. Marie said one customer planned to frame 
a receipt.
“It makes me feel good hearing that people think so much of him,” Donna said. “It’s nice.”

A lifetime’s worth of knowledge and expertise
Ken Schuh of Baker City is one of the Goodwins’ longtime customers.

Schuh, who dropped by Clark Auto Electric on Thursday, April 14, as Donna was reminiscing about the 
past half century, said he bought the paint for his first 1957 Chevrolet from Jerry.

“He had the skill,” Schuh said. “We’re losing so much experience. To watch him work. ...” and
here Schuh’s voice trails off, as if he can’t summon the words to describe Jerry’s ability to 
diagnose and fix all manner of automotive ailments.

Spurred by Hansen, who is standing behind the front counter of the business, another area untainted 
by anything containing a hard drive, Schuh tells one of Jerry’s more memorable tales over half a 
century of fixing cars.

Schuh didn’t know exactly when it happened.

“Maybe 20 or 30 years ago, maybe longer,” was the best he could offer.

The details, though, he recalls with precision, having heard the story more than once.

Jerry was working well after midnight, repairing a commercial truck.

When he finished, somewhere around 3 a.m., he handed the truck driver the bill.

The driver went outside and jumped in his truck. He returned with a pistol in his hand. Jerry, 
thinking a robbery was afoot, was frightened.
But the driver quickly allayed his fear.

He didn’t have enough cash to pay the entire bill. He asked Jerry to hold the gun as collateral 
until he could pay what he owed.

Jerry agreed. He placed the pistol in a drawer.

Quite some time later — three or so years, as Schuh recalls the story — the truck driver walked in. 
No preparatory phone call or letter.

Jerry, acting as though the previous transaction had happened just last week, retrieved the pistol 
from the drawer — where it had been sitting ever since — and exchanged the gun for the cash.
Hard to bid farewell
As she watches the snowflakes fall, Donna ponders all the years and decades that have passed, all 
the cars that have rolled into the shop and rolled out later, engine running smoothly again.

All the grease-stained white jackets, each bearing its owner’s name in red thread over the right 
breast pocket.

She knew it had to end.

And although she much prefers that Clark Auto Electric, which is closing in on the century mark, 
continues, she laments the loss.

“It’ll never be run the way it was,” she said. “No one’s interested in working that hard.”

No one but Jerry will ever be able to navigate the dark aisles, shelves and bins laden with obscure 
parts whose purpose is known only to a few, and know where to find just what he needs to get an 
engine going, an engine that might have been assembled before World War II.

“He knew where everything was,” Donna said.

Schuh also talked about the irreplaceable knowledge that Jerry possesses.

“It’s just not going to be the same,” Schuh said. “We’re going to miss Jerry. A lot of people are.”

Donna will miss her office, her ledger books kept by hand, an accounting anachronism in an era of 
spreadsheets and smartphones.

Everything about Clark Auto Electric has the palpable feeling of a bygone era, when cars were not 
as reliable as they are today and a good mechanic, a man like Jerry Goodwin, was much sought after, 
so vital were his skills.

The cash register is a massive thing of steel and wood. Its lever makes a satisfying thunk, the 
antithesis of the plasticky clicking of its modern equivalent.

Transactions are handled without the aid of a single megabyte or silicon chip.

It’s rather dim inside the shop. The air bears the inimitable aroma of a place where internal 
combustion engines are worked on, as if the walls and the concrete floor have absorbed the scents 
of oil and dielectric grease and the tinge of ozone from 12-volt batteries.

Donna will miss the work that was so much a part of the life that she and Jerry built over 66 years 
of marriage.

“Jerry couldn’t run the business any longer,” she said. “I couldn’t run it. It took a lot of 
thought, though, to finally end it.”

She glances again at the window, as if to conjure some lingering memory from the wintry sky. “It’s 
hard.”

 

“Jerry couldn’t run the business any longer. I couldn’t
run it. It took a lot of thought, though, to finally end it. It's hard."
— Donna Goodwin

 

A tribute to Jerry and Donna Goodwin
Editor's Note: This was written by Parker and Dalton Guy, two of the Goodwins' grandsons

After 50 years of owning Clark Auto Electric, Jerry and Donna Goodwin have made the decision to 
close shop. Later this spring Clark Auto will change ownership and the Goodwins will leave a legacy 
of hard work, exceptional customer service and a building that will add to the historic nostalgia 
of Baker City.

On the corner of Resort Street and Auburn Avenue, Clark Auto Electric became the staple brick 
building back in 1930. Charlie Clark, while living upstairs, owned and operated the local shop, 
later selling to his son Harold in 1956. That summer, our grandfather Jerry Goodwin, at the age of 
21, started his career in the automative industry. It was in 1972 that Jerry and Donna Goodwin 
bought the business from Harold Clark, keeping its name and furthering its history.

With a half century's time comes too many memories to keep track of, as well as too many people to 
give the proper thank you to. With that, Jerry and Donna would like to thank the community of Baker 
City and Baker County and their vendors over the years. Their loyal customers from 1972 to present 
can't be thanked enough. All of you were devoted and dedicated customers. You all kept Jerry busy 
and Donna even busier taking care of Jerry! Our family can't thank you enough for your longtime 
business and support.

To the employees over the years: Thank you for all you've done. It takes a team to build a 
successful legacy and without the employees of Clark Auto over the years the continued success 
would not have been possible. Thank you to everyone for all you've done over the years!

The memories, the laughs and the relationships, those will never leave that historic building. 
Fifty years is a long time and it's an amazing accomplishment to have owned and operated a business 
for that long. Kudos to you, Grandpa and Grandma. Both of you did an amazing job keeping Charlie 
Clark's historic building and passion up and running for so many years. On behalf of the three 
daughters and their families, we would like to congratulate you on everything that you two have 
accomplished together. We love you guys!

The iconic Carter Carburetor Repairs neon sign might not light up ever again but the legacy and
nostalgia on the corner of Resort and Auburn will always shine bright.

 

 

 

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