Just a bit shy of seven years ago, I met Sam and Adele Goldman at their home on 31st Avenue in San Francisco. We set out for Westlake Joe's restaurant in Daly City where the self-described "Ye Olde Wildest Journalism Instructor in the West" insisted on paying for everything.
The evening was typical Sam, a night full of pasta and non-stop chatter about journalism, sports and San Francisco history -- with the patient Adele by his side, smiling and nodding at stories she no doubt heard many times before.
Where does the time go? Goldman died Tuesday at 87, leaving athletes past and present, press box denizens and his former journalism students -- including me -- teary-eyed and heartbroken.
The San Franciscan was a fixture at Bay Area sporting events for decades as both a journalism instructor at San Francisco State and Skyline College, and later as a Sports Information Director deluxe at both of those colleges and for the West Coast Conference.
Goldman's former students for the past couple of days have been filling Facebook with tales of his kindness, positive attitude, penchant for handing out hard candies and calling everyone "Great Hero" or "Coach."
"Sam is a journalist to his core, but in teaching he found a way to spread his love of writing to hundreds of students now applying their craft throughout the world. I am only one of them," wrote Robert Dugoni, a lawyer and novelist who Goldman mentored at Skyline College.
Dugoni was one of many Goldman success stories -- as "Ye Olde Instructor" often mentioned in his selfless-but-proud way. Among the many others were former San Francisco Chronicle columnist Mark Simon, Mark Katches who helped the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel win a Pulitzer Prize and the late Janet Parker Beck a reporter for the San Mateo Times who Goldman taught at the now-defunct Crestmoor High.
A graduate of Mission High (1944) and San Jose State (1950), Goldman has strong ties to both San Francisco where he lived and worked and San Bruno where he toiled for many years at both the San Bruno Herald and Crestmoor.
Wrote Goldman to me in an email several years ago: "In summer 1950 I was doing my San Jose State journalism internship on the San Bruno Herald. Bert Nelson was the publisher. When I completed by my internship I returned home to San Francisco and got a job counting cans at American Company on 23rd and Third streets. A couple of months later Bert called and said 'Sam, how would you like to be the editor and advertising director of the San Bruno Herald? I'll pay you $15 a week salary and $5 for transportation. (I did not own a car and I was making $75 a week plus health benefits from American Can Co). You'll be both the editor and the advertising director. How's about it.' I took the job.
Seven months later on April 8, 1951 (Sunday) Adele and I were married. It was the best move I ever made. ... and we still use the laundry and clothes hamper that the San Bruno Herald staff gave us for the wedding present in 1951."
The missive sums up Goldman to a T -- the story-telling ability, the wit, the courage to follow one's dream. Those are qualities he passed on after he finished a stint at the San Francisco Call-Bulletin and then taught journalism at SF State, Crestmoor and Skyline -- before becoming what San Carlos journalist Rick Eymer described in a column as the "Rolls Royce of SIDs."
Goldman and the late Orange County Register writing coach Lucille DeView are the two great mentors I've had -- much needed because unlike super achievers Dugoni and Katches, I was not an uber-serious journalism student.
My college major after I left Skyline and attended SF State was something called "Recreation and Leisure Studies." I got a college diploma for, among other things, learning to whittle and playing with the Earth Ball (part of "New Games" -- don't even ask).
So a teen-aged John Murphy posed a challenge for Goldman at Skyline -- which of course he met with his boundless energy, wisdom and fairness. I still cringe at the time I stayed home sick from school because a paper was due and Sam called and offered to come to my home to collect the assignment.
"Uh, no Mr. Goldman, you-you don't need to do that," I stammered. "I'll bring it in tomorrow. Please don't go out of your way."
Future novelist or scalawag, Sam was in your corner -- whether you were up or down or just trying to figure it all out.
Here's part of what Goldman wrote to me after our dinner at Westlake Joe's: "As the late Dick Friendlich, SF Chronicle sports writer, used to tell the journalism students, 'I am not a sports writer, I am a writer who uses sports as a vehicle to tell a story.' That leads me to the hope that as you continue your future plans you will make use of your writing talents beyond the sports pages or the prep sports Internet ... with your capabilities you have the opportunity to expand your writing skills and enhance your personal and professional career."
Got it, Sam, I'll take it under advisement -- as well as your admonition to "Keep Smiling!"
Rest in peace, Great Hero.
Funeral services are at 11 a.m. Friday at Eternal Home Cemetery, 1051 El Camino Real, Colma.