IDA Tower resident walks the walk for jury selection

Mirror photo by William Kibler / Donald Goodman, 58, who lives at the city’s IDA Tower, never considered asking to be excused from jury duty because of a physical hardship.

Blair County Judge Dan Milliron has heard his share of frivolous justifications from people looking to be excused from jury duty: “I have to clean my house,” “I have to cut my grass,” “I have other plans,” “It’s my day off,” “I’m too busy,” “I don’t believe in the system,” “I just don’t want to be here.”

During jury selection for a trial in mid-August, Donald Goodman of IDA Tower downtown had an actual good excuse for begging off when called for jury selection: He not only doesn’t own a car and thus depends on public transportation, but he has a prosthetic lower left leg, so he walks with difficulty with a cane, and sometimes uses a wheelchair.

But Goodman didn’t take advantage of his built-in excuse to avoid serving at a four-day trial. He rose at 5 a.m. every day, showering, walking to the Transportation Center a block away, getting the Lakemont bus to Logan Valley Mall, then the Hollidays­burg bus to the courthouse, then riding the bus home in the evenings.

The real trial for Goodman was in the evenings, because on three of the four days, the jury was dismissed too late for him to catch the last Hollidaysburg bus in front of the courthouse at 4:50 p.m., so he had to set off walking toward the mall, where he could pick up later buses that would take him downtown.

The first day, a Good Samaritan picked him up along Penn Street in Hollidaysburg and took him to the mall. The second day, a Good Samaritan picked him up after he’d reached Garvey Manor on Logan Boulevard and took him to Walmart, where he got a bus to go home. The third day, no one picked him up, and he walked all the way to the mall — stopping first at Burger King for two Whoppers and a drink — finally getting home after 8 p.m.

It wasn’t until the morning of the last day of the trial that Milliron learned from staffers about what Goodman had been doing, although that day, the day of the verdict, the jurors were dismissed in time for Goodman to get the Hollidaysburg bus.

He was out in front of the courthouse waiting for it, when Milliron saw him and offered a ride.

On the way to IDA Tower, he asked Goodman why he hadn’t asked to be excused for “hardship.”

Goodman replied that he never considered doing that.

“I could never repay this country for all it has done for me,” he told Milliron, the judge recalled.

“I almost cried,” Milliron said.

The walking “didn’t bother me a bit,” Goodman said last week in the lobby of the Tower. It was “my call of duty” to serve, he added.

He’d have felt guilty if he’d tried to beg off, he said.

Milliron confessed himself “overwhelmed” by Goodman’s sense of obligation.

Goodman’s left leg was amputated below the knee in 2010 as a result of ongoing complications from being struck by a car while riding a motor scooter in Nogales, Ariz., in 1997.

There had been many operations designed to save the leg that included installation of hardware that his body ended up rejecting, Goodman said.

“It was crumbling inside,” he said.

Goodman has led an itinerant life.

“I have no roots,” he said. “I was raised everywhere.”

He is a preacher, though he currently does not have a church.

He received the Lord Jesus, he said, when he was 7 years old in Yellow Dog, Pa., where his family was living at the time.

His dad had been in a traffic accident, and a state trooper who investigated told them they would all have died if not for God’s intervention, Goodman said.

He asked his grandmother about what the trooper had said, and she recommended that he begin attending services at a nearby chapel, where, one night, he heard an evangelist preach on hellfire: “Whosoever is not written in the Book of Life will spend eternity in the lake of fire,” the evangelist said.

Young Donald mulled over that, and it remained in his heart.

Not long after, while pouring from a pot of coffee for his father, he spilled the contents onto his abdomen, burning himself.

Shortly after that incident, while watching other kids frolicking in a local swimming hole — he could not swim himself because of the burns — he imagined them in the lake of fire.

Frightened, he asked the Lord to forgive his sins.

Immediately, he was forgiven, he said.

“I felt light,” he said. “I wanted to laugh.”

Three years later, the Lord called him to preach, he said.

Asked how he recognized the call, he said, “You know in your heart.”

He “witnessed” frequently in elementary and high school, and sometimes those he tried to reach reacted well, and sometimes not, he said.

“The ones who didn’t, I left them alone,” he said.

Although he doesn’t have a church to lead, he preaches informally.

Because he’s saved, God talks to him all the time, he said. He’s waiting to learn what he should do next, he said.

“I do what the Lord wants,” he said.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.

THE GOODMAN FILE

Name: Donald Goodman

Age: 58

Born in DuBois. While growing up, he lived in Buffalo, N.Y., Ridgway, Sandy Run, Sykesville, Yellow Dog, Cowansville, Craigsville, Ford City, DuBois again, Punxsutawney, Ford City again, then West Branch/ Clearfield.

His father, Donald, who died in 2004, was a coal miner. His mother, Betty, died in 2015.

He had three brothers, Chris, Rick and Mike. He had two sisters, Beth and Robin.

After high school, he attended the Altoona Bible Institute, then the Pennsylvania Bible Institute in Johnstown.

Then, in 1986, a missionary came to his church at the time, Fairview Independent Baptist in Altoona, leading to a call from the Lord to go west, he said.

He went to Flagstaff, Ariz., where he ministered to the Navaho and Hopi tribes.

That was followed by a move to Kenner, La., where he ministered at St. Jude Hospital and at nursing homes and prisons, while also street-preaching. His ministry was mainly to Cajuns, he said.

He returned to Altoona, obtained a degree in theology from the Pennsylvania Bible Institute, then returned to the west, going to Gallup, N.M., the Four Corners area, where he ministered to Navajo, Hopi, Apache and Zuni peoples. He then came east again, to Staunton, Va., then back west, to Nogales, Ariz., where the accident occurred that would claim part of his leg.

He came back to Altoona in 1998 and began preaching at nursing homes and volunteering at a hospice agency, visiting patients and sitting with them, while also helping at the agency office.

Since the amputation in 2010, he’s continued those activities “somewhat,” he said.

He married in 1981. He’s divorced.

He has a daughter, Elizabeth, born in 1985.

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