Obituary: a giver of compassionate care

Catherine Goodyear in 2014. Photos: supplied
Catherine Goodyear in 2014. Photos: supplied
Social worker


A strong sense of family and motherly compassion guided Catherine Goodyear in her lifelong servitude to the less fortunate.

A former director of Dunedin social services agency Anglican-Methodist Family Care, Mrs Goodyear died peacefully in Dunedin Hospital on November 4, 2023. She was 84.

Mrs Goodyear was born Catherine Frances Wright in Invercargill on June 5, 1939, the eldest daughter of Frances Denniston and Douglas Wright.

She attended Otago Girls’ High School and the University of Otago, where she studied towards a bachelor of arts in geography, but did not complete the degree after falling ill with glandular fever.

She met her future husband, George Goodyear, through the university’s alpine club, after she was told he was the best person to learn climbing from.

They were engaged up the Rees Valley, in Otago, and their engagement notice was carved into the wall of 25 Mile Hut. Years later, a piece of wood containing the carving was retrieved and given to the family.

The pair married in Dunedin in 1960 before starting a family.

As part of her part-time study for a certificate in social work, Mrs Goodyear began a placement at the Anglican-Methodist Family Care Centre, is it was then known, in Dunedin in the late 1970s.

While studying she also worked part-time cooking for nuns in St Dominic’s Priory, in Tennyson St.

She returned to the university to complete her bachelor of arts degree, having switched to education, and graduated in 1981 — now working fulltime as a social worker.

In 1982, she took over as the centre’s director and served in the role for 21 years, retiring in 2003.

Catherine Goodyear stands on Mt Aspiring during a trip with the University of Otago’s alpine club...
Catherine Goodyear stands on Mt Aspiring during a trip with the University of Otago’s alpine club in the late 1950s.
Mrs Goodyear brought her role as a supportive and unconditionally loving mother and her deep sense of compassion and understanding to the workplace.

A founding member of the Anglican Care Network, she represented it on the New Zealand Council of Social Services, briefly serving as its president.

Anglican-Methodist Family Care was very much a part of her own family and Mrs Goodyear contributed a huge amount to the community during her tenure as director.

A strong advocate for people going through tough times, she was known to stand up to sometimes ignorant criticisms of those in need, but she always kept a cool head and responded with well-formulated arguments.

She acquired a public profile through her work, often making media appearances to talk about food banks, community resources and poverty.

Her quirky sense of humour at one point saw her hold a blessing for the agency’s new toilet.

In 1992, Mrs Goodyear undertook a Winston Churchill Fellowship and travelled to the United Kingdom to research better ways to deliver services to families. She also presented at international conferences in Montreal and Houston, frequently travelling as a social justice advocate.

In 2004, she was awarded the Queen’s Service Medal for community service. She was a member of the Rotary Foundation for many years and was awarded the Paul Harris Fellowship in 2015.

Always up for an adventure, she loved climbing and especially enjoyed it with family, friends and a good book.

In recent years, the wider family would go on holiday together at a campground in Marlborough Sounds, with January last year being her last trip.

She was known for making great pots of stew for her family on these trips, which at times included up to 16 people.

Stirring the onions with one hand while reading her book with the other, these moments saw Mrs Goodyear in her element. A sneaky glass of red wine on the deck afterwards did not go amiss either.

In early 2023, the family proposed the idea of a final family trip to England in the northern summer, "Catherine’s Last Hurrah". 

By June last year, her mobility was affected and although confined to a wheelchair at times, took the chance for a last adventure in her stride — which included reminiscing with her 102-year-old sister-in-law in Yorkshire. 

This last trip encapsulated family and travel — two things she loved to do together.

A content person, Mrs Goodyear often told her family she was happy.

While he only met Mrs Goodyear a few times, Anglican Family Care general manager Mike Williams said she was a "pretty significant person".

Mrs Goodyear was someone who genuinely cared about her work and for the wellbeing of children.

She set an example for the fundamental importance of people, and keeping an emphasis on caring for people.

The legacy of care she left behind could be felt in the operations of the agency to this day, with her memory well and truly alive, Mr Williams said.

At the agency’s previous location, in Bath St, its meeting room had even been named "The Catherine Goodyear Room". Mrs Goodyear last visited the agency for its 50th anniversary celebrations, in 2021, where she recounted frontline stories from the old days.

Something  former staff recall fondly was being called into Mrs Goodyear’s office, if they were having a hard day, to have a teaspoon of port or sherry.

A portrait of Mrs Goodyear now hangs on the wall in the director’s office, alongside her predecessors and successors.

Mrs Goodyear is survived by children Elizabeth, David, Rosemary and Richard, grandchildren Jonathan, Annabel, Charlotte, Thomas, Lachlan, Phoebe, Stella and Ned, and great-granddaughter Isabella. Mr Goodyear died in 2015 aged 90.