Galen Goode was not present at Tuesday’s Hamilton Awards Dinner, but everyone felt his presence.

Goode, Hamilton Center’s chief executive officer for 22 years, died in Indianapolis Oct. 14 at age 64.

Tuesday’s awards dinner was initially intended to pay tribute to Goode as he prepared to retire next summer. Instead, those gathered honored the memory of the man whose vision and leadership had a major impact on the community mental health center.

The evening began with a moment of silence in his memory, and later in the program, his son, Greg Goode, paid tribute to his father.

“It is very hard. There is a somberness that is casting a shadow over this evening and I certainly can feel it and I know you all feel it,” Greg Goode said. “But let’s not forget we’re here to celebrate” Hamilton Center and its accomplishments.

He told about his father’s sense of humor and kindness.

“He never had an unkind word for anyone — unless you were a Chicago Cubs fan. That was a different story,” Greg Goode said, noting his father was a committed St. Louis Cardinals fan.

He talked about how his dad would “subject” Hamilton Center administrator Mel Burks to hours of Rush Limbaugh when they took business trips together.

Greg Goode said his dad’s sense of humor “is what kept him going when he was in the trenches fighting for the cause of community mental health.”

Galen Goode sometimes described the Indiana General Assembly as the “Temple of Love,” his son said. While politics could make things difficult, “He had to keep his sense of humor because he knew the stakes were high and lives were dependent on funding,” Greg Goode said.

His dad had immense patience, “but beware of the wrath of a patient man once you cross that line,” Greg Goode said. It was rare that he saw his father angry, but when it occurred, it typically involved someone who was dealt a difficult hand in life and was then getting pushed around.

During those times, his father, a larger-than-life, humorous, soft-spoken and congenial man, “became an absolute pitbull … and he would fight and fight and fight for that individual. That was the social worker in him,” Greg Goode said. “Until his last day, when he took his very last breath, he was ultimately a social worker who was looking out for his fellow human being.”

He described his dad as his “life coach,” someone he talked to nearly every day, even while living in Seattle. “It’s already breaking my heart knowing that I’m not going to be able to do that anymore,” he said.

If his dad had been present at Tuesday’s dinner — which also celebrated the 40th anniversary of Hamilton Center — he would simply have said,  “Thank you. Thank you for 22 years of service to those individuals who have put their hearts and souls in Hamilton Center and the mission of the center.”

And while many are still grieving the loss of Galen Goode, the work of Hamilton Center must go on, Greg Goode said. “We have a job to do.”

At the start of the awards event, Master of Ceremony Craig McKee also paid tribute to Galen Goode and asked everyone to stand for a moment of silence.

When the dinner was initially organized, he noted that part of the event was intended to pay tribute to Galen as he looked to retirement. “Sadly, that tribute in his company is not possible … No doubt many in this room remain filled with grief in the days after his premature loss and his funeral,” McKee said.

He noted that Galen Goode provided leadership for more than half of Hamilton Center’s 40-year existence.

Despite the sadness over his recent death, it was still appropriate to honor Hamilton Center and respectfully pay tribute to its former chief executive officer, McKee said. “This is still a happy night celebrating Hamilton Center’s remarkable history, the work of its people and a milestone 40th anniversary,” McKee said.

Jim Jones, former CEO of the Indiana Council of Community Mental Health Centers, talked about the impact Galen Goode had on a statewide level.

The program for the dinner also paid tribute to Galen Goode.

“We remember his kindness, his generosity, his sense of humor, his love for family and his life’s work to improve the quality of life of people with mental illness and other disabilities,” it stated. “So many lives have been touched by his work, his life, his passion and his compassion. We honor him and dedicate tonight’s event to his memory.”

Sue Loughlin can be reached at (812) 231-4235 or sue.loughlin@tribstar.com

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