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Columbia Missourian

William Russell Goodge remembered for his love and knowledge of birding

By Karee Hackel
February 7, 2012 | 4:12 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — Tracking, finding and educating himself about various bird species was not simply a hobby of William Russell Goodge. Birding was his passion.

"He was a lifelong birder. He was always tramping around in search of some new and different bird," his son, John Goodge, said. "He enjoyed traveling to search, but equally enjoyed being in his backyard or walking along the MKT Trail to see what he could find."

Mr. Goodge died on Sunday, Feb. 5, 2012. He was 83.

Mr. Goodge was born April 26, 1928, in Seattle, to Lyman and Suzanne Goodge .

Mr. Goodge studied at the University of Washington and earned a bachelor's degree in zoology in 1949. He then obtained a master's degree from the University of Michigan in 1950 and a doctorate from the University of Washington in 1957, both in zoology. He served in the Army Medical Service Corps during the Korean War and was stationed in Texas and Germany.

John Goodge recalls his father's keen interest in the outdoors and nature. Every Saturday morning, Mr. Goodge would venture outdoors simply to observe, record and track bird species and their patterns. He could often be found walking along the MKT Trail or at Rock Bridge State Park. Growing up as an avid outdoorsman and knowledgeable Eagle Scout, Mr. Goodge frequently traveled to the North Cascades and the Appalachian Mountains in order to hike and indulge his lifelong passion of birding.

"He really enjoyed the aesthetics of being outside, being in the world and being in the elements," his son said. "He found that birds were really intriguing in terms of their habits, physiology and colors."

His love of birding allowed Mr. Goodge and his family to experience different areas of the U.S. Every summer, the Goodge family would pack up their car with camping equipment and venture to less-traveled parts of the country.

"I think he was personally interested in going to places where there were birds he hadn't seen before," his son said. "But, he always saw it as an opportunity for all of us to be together. Our travels really helped to bring together our family of four." 

In 1964, Mr. Goodge took a position in the Department of Anatomy at the MU School of Medicine. He was director of the gift body program, secretary-treasurer of the Missouri State Anatomical Board and was a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He also published scientific papers regarding the American Dipper and woodpeckers.

"My father was a man of books. He had bookshelves full of books about birds from all over the world," his son said. "He was an amazingly knowledgeable person about birding and was an authority for many people."

Mr. Goodge served on the Missouri Birds Records Committee, which is a function of the Audubon Society of Missouri. Through his involvement with the Missouri Birds Records Committee, Mr. Goodge and committee members would review submissions of bird sightings made by photos or descriptions, then vote to verify the legitimacy of each submission.

"You need a certain level of expertise to serve on that committee and have a certain level of knowledge to make those kinds of decisions," his daughter, Anne Goodge, said. "It was a lot of work, but it was a labor of love."

After Mr. Goodge retired from MU, he took many additional opportunities to travel, see the world and follow more bird species.

He and his wife, Eleanor Goodge, went on specialized birding trips to exotic locales such as Africa, Thailand, New Zealand, Australia and South America. Traveling to remote areas with local guides and experienced birders leading the group, Mr. Goodge and his wife would spend a week or more in grueling conditions, hoping to catch a glimpse of a bird that he had not yet seen.

For every serious birder, such as Mr. Goodge, keeping a very specific record of birds they see, where they see them and the date on which they see them can all be very important, his daughter said.

"He was able to add a lot of birds to his life list," his daughter said.

Mr. Goodge is survived by his sister, Margaret Hart of Seattle; his son, John Goodge, and wife, Vicki Hansen, of Duluth, Minn.; his daughter, Anne Goodge, and  husband, Lon Herman of Granville, Ohio; and four grandchildren.

Memorial contributions can be made to the Audubon Society of Missouri online at

Tributes may be posted at