VALDOSTA --Jimmy Goolsby may have lost his battle with cancer, but his memory will endure with the people who knew him.

Goolsby, 54, wanted to be with loved ones when the end came, and his wife, Susan, made sure his request was honored. "He wanted to die at home, and I told him I would see to that," Susan said. "He wanted to be with his family."

Goolsby had been involved with education for almost 29 years, and his last duty as an educator was as the principal of Parker Mathis Elementary School. It was a position he had held for about five years. Previously, he had served as the assistant principal at Clyattville Elementary School for six years. His devotion as an educator also included working as a secondary educator at Valdosta State University.

About 15 years ago, he found a special calling when he completed his six-year degree in special education. Foster Goolsby, his father and former superintendent of the Valdosta City School System, remembers when he taught severely handicapped at what was then Westside for about a year. "His great love was dealing with children with special needs," Susan said.

Derek, his son, remembers his father not only taught the children with special needs, but got out and participated with them. "Even after he was sick, he would get out with the kids, even after the doctor told him to stop working," Derek said.

Susan said that four years ago, Goolsby began his battle with colon cancer. In November 2000, he received further bad news when he was diagnosed with lung cancer. In fact, Goolsby continued to work until last Friday.

"He didn't dwell on the extent of his illness," Derek said. "People would ask how he was feeling, and he always told them he was fine, even though they knew he was very ill."

Education wasn't his only love. He was a volunteer for the United Way, the American Heart Association and the Cancer Society. His service to the community didn't end there. He was a coach with the YMCA and Special Olympics and was in charge of Civitan.

One of the proudest moments of his life was when he was one of a selected few to carry the Olympic Torch for the city of Valdosta in 1996. A torch is still proudly displayed at his home. "That was his prize, he was very honored to be chosen to do that," Susan said. "He was a remarkable man and loved by many. He was loved by people all over this town, including Thomas County."

Susan remember when she met her future husband in Atlanta, when they were in their 20s. "For 32 years, he's been my best friend," she said with tears in her eyes.

When Susan was asked what her husband would say about his life if he were here today, she smiled, saying, "I gave it my all, my best shot," she said.

Foster said that the thing that would be most remembered about his son was that he was a successful educator. "His faculty knew his high regard for the great teachers," Foster said. "His interests were dogs, flowers and children with special needs. If you find a person with those three things, there is nothing else you need to know about him."

To contact reporter Rip Prine, please call 244-3400, ext. 237.

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