Chapter 1: The Early Years

Daniel Lee Gooding was born on November 5, 1951 at Elizabeth General Hospital and was raised in the nearby town of Roselle NJ.  Dan had the greatest parents any child could ask for!  Unfortunately they are both gone now too. 

His father Arnold was an engineer who achieved many patents over the years in building oil refineries. He also traveled all over the world to manage the building of new plants - taking his family with him to locations such as Casablanca, Morocco, the Spanish Riviera and Calgary Canada. [I have a photo of Dan riding a camel which I will upload later]

His mother Lucy Lee was a stay-at-home mom — but truly not in the traditional sense. She was a woman ahead of her time — very well-read with her own sense of adventure and independence. I remember that she wanted to return to Spain, but when she could not get anyone to come along - she made the trip anyway all by herself. She was also so athletic that she would race Dan’s classmates and usually win! She frequently took walks in the park and believed in eating healthy — often juicing veggies like carrots and celery. Even when she had become sick herself she did volunteer work at the local hospital.

Dan was the third of 4 boys. His eldest brother Bob was the youngest partner in a stock brokerage firm at age 23 and then went on to pursue entrepreneurial endeavors — often taking Dan under his wings. Unfortunately Bob passed away back in 1994.

The next older brother is John who was the Marine Sargeant of the family - Semper fi. After his tour with the military he pursued a career in photography. He also took Dan under his wings from time to time. Today he lives in Marina del Rey.

The youngest boy was Charlie - who elected to follow a musician’s dream. Unfortunately Charlie was killed in a motorcycle accident back in 2004. This devastated Dan severely - he never really got over this loss.

Dan had many childhood friends while growing up in Roselle. He confessed to me that he was usually the neighborhood’s instigator  — often inciting mischievous activities involving exploding fireworks, faking an arrow assault, snowball fights, or giving his buddy’s brand new bike a glitter paint job. My favorite story involved a dummy they dressed up to look like a real person - they named him ‘Louie Louie’. Some of their innocent pranks included taking the dummy to Main Street and pretending to assault him — but when they hurled poor Louie Louie off the train bridge this brought things to a whole new level. Fortunately no one was hurt — but ALL the dummies involved were retired -lol!

Dan continued to keep in touch with all his childhood friends throughout the years ..

Chapter 2: The Teenage Era

After several miserable years with the nuns at Catholic school, Dan returned to the public school system in Roselle. He graduated from Abraham Clark High School and received his welding certification via the vocational program.

During these years he was the renowned ‘cool guy’ in school as written throughout his yearbook. He was really into cars - building, designing, and best of all - street racing. During this time he was also a member of the Sing-Out club and worked part time at the ice skating rink.

Although he never elaborated (gee I wonder why) he was also into three other things - girls, girls, girls! So many of his yearbook entries pointed out his wit, charm, and especially how nice he was.

After high school he pursued many different endeavors including working for each of his older brothers - and then traveling with an oil spill cleanup company where he earned the nickname Geronimo.

Soon after he would start his own cleanup company and designed innovative products to clean and dispose of spills more efficiently. He also hired all three of his brothers to assist him - until he eventually sold out to a larger corporation.

Then in April 1975 he knocked on my door ...

Chapter 3: The Dan and Nan beginning

 Our first official date was April 10, 1975 — which is the true  anniversary date we would come to celebrate over the years. I remember that we began our relationship as friends. He used to come over my house at night to talk over some cups of hot tea at my dining room table.  Later he would confess that he drank as much tea as I would offer just so he could stay longer ... and then buzz & shake all the way home from all the caffeine -lol!

He always made our dates interesting and adventurous— often we would cross over to New York City and dine in either Little Italy or at a downstairs restaurant in Chinatown named HopKee. Other times we would head south on his Harley for the Jersey shore and walk along the beach, eat along the boardwalk, or ride the bumper cars at the amusement park. Then there were the funny car races at Englishtown Raceway or the Cigarette boat races near Toms River - and wherever we went he always seemed to run into people he knew!

Then one night while I was in my second story apartment - of course my hair in curlers and not dressed to be seen (by anyone) - I suddenly heard an OOGA-OOGA horn honking outside. Just like in some Hallmark movie I opened my back window - only to see Dan in his newly acquired red 1931 Ford roadster convertible. Before he could say ‘come on down’ I had shed my curlers, donned my jeans and was sitting in the passenger’s seat hoping we would go to Carvel (the local ice cream hop).

Then on Christmas Eve 1978 we were married at a small private gathering in his parent’s home. We had discussed marriage for some time but when his mother’s illness seemed to be worsening we decided to proceed this way so that she could witness the event. I’ve dedicated a section under ‘stories’ to discuss this further.

Soon after we were married we relocated to the Jersey shore and lived in a condo - with our back door right up against the bay. Dan used to throw a crab trap over the bay wall in the morning — and when we returned after work he would reel in dinner — usually a half dozen blue claw crabs. 

It was here that Dan bought his first speed boat. When all the neighbors had their boats put away for the winter - here was Dan driving figure 8s in the water with me riding shotgun wrapped in the warmest blanket I could find.

Then only 3 months after we were married his Mom passed away - which took a big chunk out of both our hearts. 

It was later that year that Dan decided we should pack it in - leave the east coast - in search of a better place to plant our roots. So we sold many of our things and packed the rest in his van - along with whatever could fit inside his classic 1968 black convertible Camaro ... and hit the road.

California here we come!

Chapter 4: The Texas time frame

So we set out on our journey traveling all across America until we reached California and then explored up and down the west coast. We finally determined that the place that offered the most opportunity for a young couple starting out was ... Texas.

We returned to the Lone Star state and settled in the Fort Worth area just in time for the Texas boom to begin. I quickly got a job with General Dynamics and Dan found work with a manufacturing company. We soon acquired our first symbol of “family-hood” by adopting an Old English Sheepdog we named Daisy Lee. 

Then we had our first house built - a D.R. Horton home. Dan and I completed many projects together such as planting beautiful landscaping, building a privacy fence around the perimeter, and custom wallpapering the interior. He later would install a swimming pool and hot tub with a nice patio area.

While this was going on Dan’s entrepreneurial spirit took flight and he started his own lawn sprinkler installation company. I studied and acquired the certification while he did the rest - marketing the local house builders, selling the jobs, and then design and installation.

We soon acquired our 2nd home - bigger and even more beautiful - and had graduated to being “super yuppies”. He was operating more businesses and I was working in the computer industry. We owned lots of toys ... a brand new Corvette, a boat on the lake, etc. We were living the dream!

Eventually the Texas boom ended. Dan saw it on the horizon so we relocated to Georgia to regroup.

Chapter 5: On the road again ...

     [ story to be continued ...]