They came from far and wide on a dreary January afternoon to say goodbye to the man most in Wayne knew as ‘Goldy’.
Jon Goldstein’s sudden passing on Jan. 28 has left a void at Goldy’s beloved Wayne Hills High School. So when we all gathered at Temple Beth Tikvah in Wayne on Jan. 31 to say goodbye, it was no surprise that Goldy’s funeral was attended by hundreds, including a vast part of the Wayne Hills student body, football players wearing their game jerseys, as well as an extended family and a lot of grateful friends.
There was laughter and tears. There was smiles and angst. There were tears of sorrow and tears from laughing extremely hard.
We learned about the Goldy Calendar and the many women who loved Goldy, but lost.
We learned about Goldy’s meticulous record keeping when it came to fantasy football. We learned how Goldy was a nut about baseball statistics.
We learned about Goldy’s first encounter with legendary football coach Chris Olsen, some 19 years ago.
“I invited him to come to a game,” Olsen said to the large crowd. “So it’s game day and I’m getting ready. I turn around, and Jon is standing next to me. He says ‘I’m here’. I said, good, now get back a little, please.
“For the next 19 years, he never left my side. He was there through the good times and during a lot of times when things weren’t so good for me. When my wife became ill, he never left my side. I’ve seen this guy help kids at school who may have needed lunch money. My father once said that you’ll have a lot of acquaintances, but not a lot of friends. Well, Goldy was my friend. He was my best friend.”
Jon’s older brother spoke of Goldy’s love of Wayne Hills. One of his dearest friends spoke of Goldy’s dominance at the local poker games. In fact, if Goldy couldn’t make a game, generally that week’s contest was postponed. (And we learned to spell Goldy, correctly, because Jon wouldn’t stand for any other version).
Jon loved to eat. He would often lay out his planned lunch in near-perfect detail, or describe, in earnest, what he just ate. He loved the Wendy’s ‘Baconator’. When he ordered dinner at the local ‘Outback’, it was an event watching him plan his meal.
When we would go out on our Thursday nights with the football staff, everyone wanted to see what Goldy would eat.
“Jon lived a happy life,” said Goldy’s good friend, Walt Johnson. “The last few years were really good to him. He enjoyed his work, coaching kids and the friends he had in school. Losing his dad was a down time for him, but overall, he really enjoyed what he did and how he lived. I’m grateful for that.”
We learned how Jon loved books. And I’ll tell you a secret. Jon and I had discussed writing a book about the Wayne Hills football program. We had begun talks about it last winter. Now, it will be difficult to carry out that assignment without the Big Guy, but somehow, I will try and make that work.
We learned how Jon continued giving, after he left this earth, by being an organ donor and leaving his corneas so that someone else can see the world, hopefully the way he did.
What we didn’t learn, because it was long ingrained, was that Jon Goldstein was as loyal to Wayne Hills as the day was long. He may have graduated Wayne Valley, but he was a Patriot, through and through.
And, as Olsen said at the funeral, Jon may, physically, no longer be with the people he loved the most, but his spirit will never die.
It will seem weird later this year, when football activities begin anew at Hills and not seeing Goldy.
“When I’m in class, Jon would sometimes come down from his office and talk to me for a few minutes,” said Wayne Hills head football coach Wayne Demikoff. “I’m telling you, the last couple of days, I would look down that hall and thought for sure, he was walking over.”
There were so many memories of Goldy on that football field. There was the time in 2011 when a Ramapo football player purposely ran into Goldy on the sidelines. Before Goldy knew what hit him, a pair of Hills players were defending their guy.
In 2013, a Tenafly player accidentally ran into Goldy on the Hills sidelines.
“I’m okay,” Goldy said before he even hit the ground. “I’m okay, keep playing.”
The roar of laughter from the coaching staff indicated Goldy was, indeed, okay, as he quickly popped up, with a little help from the Tenafly player who offered his apologies. “No problem, son,” Goldy told the kid. “I’m fine.”
Yes, Goldy, you are fine. And you are in a place where being happy and content will last an eternity. You’ve earned it, pal.
A lot of us here will not quite know how to handle not seeing you on the football field, but we know you’re watching out for the Patriots.
Take care, have a Baconator and enjoy your new life.