FRANCONIA — Former state Rep. Robert "Bob" Godshall, who served 36 years in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives before not running again in the 2018 elections, has died. He was 86.
"This is a tremendous loss and we express our condolences and prayers to his family and community," the Montgomery County Republican party said in a statement issued Sunday announcing Godshall's death.
Godshall was raised and still lived on what was the family farm in Franconia and later helped run the family's poultry business there. He also served 17 years on Souderton Area School Board and was a former Montgomery County controller,
The 53rd District, which he represented in the state House, includes Lansdale, Hatfield Township, Hatfield Borough, Souderton, Franconia, Salford Township and the Montgomery County portion of Telford.
"People want public officials who can make a difference and I believe I have done that for my constituents throughout the years," Godshall said when he announced he was retiring from the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. "My office staff and I pride ourselves on the quality of service that we've provided, the people we've helped and all the valuable experience we've gained working on the many issues facing our communities and state."
"He was as community minded as any person I ever met," said Frank Bartle, managing partner of the Dischell, Bartle & Dooley law firm and a former Montgomery County Republican party chairman.
Along with taking people's needs into account, Godshall was a very knowledgeable state representative who knew the details of legislative matters and effectively represented his constituents and people throughout the state, Bartle said.
Bartle, who said he and Godshall had been good friends for at least 40 years, described Godshall as a "very loyal, decent guy."
"He was very honest and straight-forward, and when he gave someone a commitment, he was always there," Bartle said.
Bartle said he knew Godshall when Godshall was on the Souderton Area School Board and when he was the county controller, then got to know him better when Godshall ran for state representative and Bartle at the time was a Lansdale Borough Council member.
Godshall had been in poor health and was in the hospital for 10 days prior to his death, so the death was not unexpected, Bartle said Monday.
"It's still a big shock. It's a big loss," Bartle said.
State Rep. Marcy Toepel, R-147, who worked with Godshall who was the senior member of the Montgomery County delegation in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and was a member of the House Consumer Affairs Committee when Godshall was its chairman, said Godshall was respected as both a state legislator and a powerful committee chairman.
"He worked across the aisle to move legislation forward that protected consumer rights dealing with utility issues," she said.
"Bob is missed in the House, surely," Toepel said. "He left a giant footprint in Harrisburg."
"I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Bob Godshall. He was a profoundly respected leader and community member, and he was also a kind source of knowledge and guidance for me, for which I am personally grateful," said state Rep. Steve Malagari, D-53, who succeeded Godshall in the seat.
"I know I am not the only member of our community to have a huge amount of respect for the work he did, but I certainly have a renewed appreciation for and personal insight into just how hard he worked over the years," Malagari said. "I share my condolences and prayers for his family and friends at this difficult time. His legacy is felt throughout the region and throughout the state."
"The job gives you the ability to help people," Godshall said in a 2016 Souderton Independent interview. "In many cases, they don't have any place else to go and they come here."
Prior to being named chairman of the House Consumer Affairs Committee in 2007, Godshall had been chairman of the House Tourism and Recreational Development Committee, where his tenure included the development of the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia.
"As the first President and CEO of the National Constitution Center, I was recruited to lead a very impressive building — on paper — and a project drowning in red ink. There were very large and well-founded doubts about whether we could build this testament to our founding document. We did get it built, in no small part due to Bob Godshall," Pennsylvania Treasurer Joe Torsella said in a statement. "As Chairman of the House Recreation and Tourism Committee, Bob saw the potential of this project, and he saw the need for it and worked to fund it. Over the course of his career, he was a champion for our commonwealth, ensuring that tourists came to see our cities and farms, our museums and mountains."
Torsella said he also served with Godshall on the board of the State Employees' Retirement System.
"He was generous with his time and attention in every project he undertook, and was always a pleasure to work with. I share the feelings of so many of the constituents and colleagues he served, and served with, in missing him," Torsella said. "His work was an exhibit in how to serve the public, and a model for what we should demand more of in our future."
In his announcement that he would not be running for re-election in 2018, Godshall said being the recipient of the 2011 American Hero Award from the National Kidney Registry was the most personally satisfying award he had received.
"The recipient of a life-saving bone marrow transplant, Godshall's groundbreaking legislation to provide tax breaks to employers who grant workers time off to donate an organ or bone marrow was intended to increase donations by living donors. His legislation is being used as a national model to encourage similar measures in other states," a January 2018 release said.
Details about memorial services were not immediately available.