Even if you never met the Goodman brothers, you knew them — and you know them still — by their works.
As presented by Doug Moe in his biography Good Men, the lives of Bob and Irwin Goodman are fascinating in multiple respects: as local history, immigrant family chronicle, American success story and business guide.
They came here from St. Paul, Minn., because they thought the city was pretty and the people were nice. That’s all. Later they gave us Madison’s municipal pool; the Goodman Community Center on the east side; the Goodman Jewish Community Campus in Verona, home to the Goodman Aquatic Center; and much more.
The shy State Street jewelers were longtime roommates and best friends. A generation has passed since their remarkably awkward TV commercials, delivered in the style of deer caught in headlights. They knew they were joining the pantheon of local eccentrics, and laughed all the way to the bank.
Then they emptied the bank. Only now, after Irwin’s death in 2009 and Bob’s in 2010, can we guess at the true scale of their unconventionality: They led lives of service and near-unimaginable charity. We will never know the full extent.
In this compelling and richly illustrated book, Moe documents the Goodmans’ financial fortunes, almost as a detective story with no ending. What drove these remarkable men?
“There was so much more depth to them than I might have guessed,” Moe quotes Rob Zaleski, a columnist who was granted the rare opportunity to interview the brothers. “They had traveled the world. They had a life hardly anyone was aware of.”
As Moe makes clear, the lifelong bachelors considered all of us to be their family. They and their foundation’s works nurture us still. Good men, indeed.
Good Men: The Lives and Philanthropy of Irwin A. and Robert D. Goodman
By Doug Moe
Parallel Press, University of Wisconsin-Madison Libraries, 2014