WILMINGTON — We lost a remarkable man with a remarkable history, James Max Godwin, 94, on Friday, July 30, 2021. He was husband to Jean; father to David, Luna, Wilson, Michael and Paul; and friend and benefactor to many.
In 1941, Robert and Arimenta brought their sons, Max, Jackie and Ralph, from Polkton to Wilmington to participate in the war effort. Robert worked at building Liberty ships, Arimenta was a day care nurse and their sons enrolled in the Wilmington school system. Max enrolled as a freshman at New Hanover High School, where he excelled as a student and made lifelong friends.
Upon graduation, he received many awards both academically and socially, however, he took most pride in his being name most favored captain of his ROTC unit in 1945. He was carried around the gym by his men with thunderous applause from the student body. For the remainder of his life, he would be greeted as “Captain Godwin” by former NHHS graduates. A short term in the military was cut short by illness, which plagued him all his life. He remained disappointed that he never became a pilot. He had an avid interest in every aspect of flying even becoming a purser for the fledgling Piedmont Airlines.
He was discharged and returned to Wilmington, taking advantage of a scholarship to Duke University. That was also cut short by the same illness.
He lived and worked in Wilmington the rest of his life. He was a salesman. He may have sold you tires at Sears, pumped your gas at a station he managed, sold a box fan from Montgomery Ward which he owned or traded with you for an old car, probably a Mercedes. He was very successful at business because he always spoke the truth. His reputation was that he could be trusted. His keen interest was in old watches, old fountain pens, books, knives, unique cars, all things airplane and Ingrid Bergman. Even his clothes were seldom new. His coffee shop friends were writers, attorneys, doctors, politicians, teachers, an odd collection of people who began each day at Folks Cafe or Java Dog.
As he began to lose his vision, he became dependent on friends to transport him to places he loved. He would walk to a bus stop counting the lines in the sidewalk; hug any ladies who seemed friendly; get on the bus where he befriended the daily traveler; and get off at Senior Center, where he made more friends and used the facility. From there, he would call home to be picked up. All this activity took place in an ever increasing dark world.
He faithfully sat each day (weather permitting) at the end of his driveway waving to passing cars, speaking to the walkers, bringing joy to all. He was a fixture. There was a group of neighbors on his birthday this year who celebrated with a parade complete with horns, drums, posters, balloons, flowers. It was a lovely moment for Max. He did not just gently pass through this life unnoticed, he really mattered to many people.
Today, he is with his Lord and Savior in heaven reconnecting, we hope, with his beloved brothers Jackie and Ralph.
We must say so long to this remarkable man who impacted so many of us. Saying goodbye will be a private family affair. A public celebration of life will come later and will be announced.
As Shakespeare put it: He was a man, take him all in all. I shall not look upon his like again.
Jean Browning Beres Godwin
Max, my darling, it was an honor.
Share online condolences with the family at Andrews Mortuary & Crematory.