The Uncertain Death of David Goodis

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David Goodis died at 11:30 p.m. on January 7, 1967, at Albert Einstein Medical Center, Northern Division, about a mile from his house. The death certificate listed the cause of death as a "cerebral vascular accident" meaning a stroke. According to legend, David had been beaten while resisting a robbery. A few days later he died and his death has been attributed to his injuries.

David's cousin,
Paul Halpern related how David's humor got him in trouble. David was of slight build. A small man approached David and demanded his wallet and money. David looked at the little guy and the little guy looked back. David said that there was no way that this little guy was going to rob him. David refused to give over his wallet. Out of the shadows, appeared a big man, who beat up David. Paul Halpern saw the bruises. His cousins told Paul Halpern about the details. Was this beating the cause of death?

Death certificate of David Goodis, obtained from Temple Archives by Louis Boxer. Photo courtesy Louis Boxer.

Another theory. David Goodis' friend Len Cobrin heard that David had keeled over while shoveling snow. Weather records from Philadelphia International Airport show that there had been 12.4 inches of snow on December 24, 1966, .3 inches of snow on December 25, 1966, and .3 inches on December 28, 1966. There was no additional snowfall through January 7, 1967, when David Goodis died.

The death by shoveling theory is supported by informed hearsay from writer and educator
Bill Sherman. During 1966, Sherman had corresponded with Goodis, hoping to arrange for an interview. Sherman recalled a telephone conversation with his father, attorney and Pennsylvania State Representative Louis Sherman. "This in fact is what my father had told me when I spoke with him from [the University of] Buffalo (where I was doing my Ph.D.), so I reckon it is accurate since my father must have heard it from some member of the Goodis family who was also practicing law in Philadelphia at the time."

Which story is true? Philadelphia's Doctor Noir, Louis Boxer (his day job is physician) had this to say:

"Unlikely about shoveling causing his death. Shoveling would have caused a cardiovascular incident (heart attack). He had a stroke. I like to believe that it came from a beating after going to Linton’s and he did not want to give up his wallet. Maybe a police report was filed. Look at the death certificate, the only place I know of that indicates that he was divorced. Nothing in the income tax reports from the 40s.

"Shoveling can cause any number of insults to the heart, brain, muscles and electrolytes of an individual. But DG was 49 years old! Myocardial infarction or cerebral vascular insult could easily result. It was also very cold those days. So, yes, one could suffer a stroke shoveling snow. Remember his house did not have a drive way to shovel. Only a sidewalk and a walkway to the house. Although the idea is very romantic that he succumbed to shoveling, I don’t believe it. I like the assault scenario better."

Bill Sherman responded:

"I too prefer the not giving up the wallet theory since, as you might say to Lou Boxer, THAT is more 'romantic' than shoveling snow. I suppose both could be true: i.e. he was beaten and a few days later exacerbated it by the shoveling. I only ASSUMED my father heard the story from a legal aquaintence, I really don't know. He would have appreciated the reference though, I am sure. I used to eat at Linton's on North Broad, and even went there with my father late at night once or twice."