Eight Bells: Marty Godsil

Published on August 9th, 2018

Martin Allen Godsil, whose love for life inspired those he touched in the Pacific Northwest and beyond, died at the age of 86 years (Jan 22, 1932-Jul 8, 2018).

Born in Fairbanks, Alaska, 8 year old Martin moved with the Godsil family (mother Alice, brothers Michael, Dennis, Pat and daughter Susan) to the Seattle area, and in 1942 they settled on Vashon Island.

Marty Godsil

At the conclusion of WWII they moved to Portland, OR where Martin attended Grant High School, graduating in 1949. He joined the U.S. Coast Guard and was on active duty on the icebreaker North wind from 1953 to 1955. After an honorable discharge in 1955, Marty enrolled at the University of Washington.

In 1958, he graduated with a degree in business administration and then entered the UW School of Law. In 1961, he passed the bar and in September of that year took a job at the Seattle law firm of Casey & Pruzan. Over the next three decades, Martin Godsil became a well-respected member of the Seattle legal community.

Marty was noted for his expertise in matrimonial law, representing clients in a number of prominent divorce cases. He had a knack for arguing persuasively as well as listening compassionately, and in the mid-nineties Marty was named one of the best lawyers in America for family law.

In the early ’60s, Marty purchased a Dragon Class sailboat – a 30-foot racing sloop with a crew of three. And so began a lifelong obsession. Sailboat racing provided the perfect outlet for Marty’s extraordinary drive and focus. It gave him joy, adventure, life-long friends all over the globe, more than a few trophies, and yes, even romance.

Sandra and Marty Godsil’s first date was an evening sail on Lake Washington. They were married on April 10, 1965 – a marriage that lasted 53 years. They had two children, Max and Dorothy.

During the late ’70s and throughout the ’80s, Marty was a perennial contender, winning the Dragon North American Championship three times. Martin Godsil was not only an accomplished competitor; he was a hands-on boat builder and outfitter. His family recalls him coming home from work, hanging up his lawyer suit, and disappearing into the garage, i.e. “Racing Factory.”

Marty built boat after boat – and soon built a fleet. By the late ’70s, one could sec 20 Dragons on the starting line for the Seattle Fleet Championship. A tireless organizer, Marty began to put together professional-level crews and range beyond the West Coast. Sandra Godsil is fond of saying they “saw the world on the back of a Dragon.”

Marty spent thirteen straight summers competing in championship regattas all over Europe. In the late ’80s, Marty retired from boat building and bought a 26-foot Thunderbird, which he named Invader. Marty and his dedicated crew continued to challenge for championships. In 1991, he was named Corinthian Yacht Club Sailor of the Year.

Marty Godsil was the quintessential resident of the Pacific Northwest, embodying its spirit of rugged independence. With his two kids successfully enrolled at UW and WSU, Marty and Sandra moved from Seattle’s Montlake neighborhood to live full-time in their summer home on the shores of Puget Sound, north of Kingston. The “House on Sandy Beach Lane” was his last great project.

In later years, life was quieter. Marty enjoyed watching the sun rise over the Cascades; feeding the numerous species of birds; aggressively trapping and relocating the squirrels that ate the birdseed. In the summer, he rowed out to check the crab pots; and, of course, most of all, he enjoyed hosting friends, family, and especially his six grandchildren for days on the beach.

It’s hard to put into words the energy and enthusiasm that Marty brought to everything he did. He was an outstanding lawyer. An innovative, hands-on boat builder. He had a sharp mind and was physically tough. He had a voluminous vocabulary, but could curse a blue streak at a botched mark rounding.

He was erudite and eloquent, but earthy and irreverent. He was the strong … rarely silent type. His manner was sometimes brusque, but it hid a warm, sentimental side. He loved the Washington Huskies, American jazz, and Johnny Cash, and was proud of his Irish heritage. Whether you met him in court, or on the dock, you wouldn’t soon forget him.

Though not necessarily a man of faith, he was unfailingly dedicated to the golden rule: “Do unto others ….” For those who knew him, Marty Godsil was a man of contrasts. But he was not complicated.

His code of ethics was as simple as the Randolph Scott cowboy movies that he loved. Be honest, loyal, a straight shooter. Stand up when you need to. Be gentle with animals, tip your hat to the ladies, and when it comes time to ride off into the sunset, leave the town better off for your being there.

God bless Marty Godsil. We are all so blessed for knowing him. and his “Have Fun Every Day” spirit lives on in the persons of his devoted wife of 53 years, Sandra Godsil; daughter Dorothy Ambuske and her husband Aaron Ambuske; son Max Godsil and wife Trace; six grandchildren: Adam Ambuske, Ava Ambuske, Ansel Ambuske, Morgan Godsil, Alicia Godsil, and William Godsil.

If you would like to make a donation in Marty’s name, consider the Seattle area’s The Sailing Foundation.

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