Robert Godwin Sr. gave his son a hug before leaving after an Easter morning visit, departing with a few kind words.
It was the last time the son would ever see his father, who shortly afterward was shot and killed at random by a deranged man who broadcast the killing on Facebook. Alleged shooter Steve Stephens selected Godwin at random, confronting the 74-year-old man and forcing him to say the name “Joy Lane” before gunning him down.
It was a tragic moment that quickly went viral as video of the slaying spread across the internet. But Robert Godwin Sr. prefers to remember the last moments with his father and the kind words he shared in departing.
“He hugged my wife and me and said ‘I’ll see you guys next time,’ ” Godwin Jr. told Cleveland.com. “I said ‘OK, enjoy your Easter.’ “
The 48-year-old Godwin Jr. said he received a call not long afterward that his father had been shot. By the time he arrived, his father’s body had been removed and Robert knew immediately that he was dead.
“When the detective walked up, she didn’t have to open her mouth because her vest said ‘homicide,'” Robert Godwin Jr. told Cleveland.com.
In the wake of the horrific shooting, family members said they wanted to remember Robert Godwin Sr. for the love he showed to family rather than the viral video of his final moments. Robert Godwin Jr. said he has made it a point not to watch the video, or even the news about his father’s death.
Debbie Godwin said her father was a quiet man who was never embarrassed to do whatever he needed for his family members.
“He would go and buy our private things with pride. He had five daughters. He had no shame in his game,” Debbie told Cleveland.com.
Though Robert Godwin Sr. had a good retirement plan as a foundry worker, his children said he still liked to pick up aluminum cans as a hobby. That appeared to be what he was doing during a walk when Stephens confronted him, family members added.
Godwin also enjoyed going fishing in Lake Erie, something he did the day before his death.
But most of all, he loved his children and prided himself in teaching them how to be self-sufficient — all while making sure he was providing for them.
“All my life, all I’ve ever known for my dad to be a provider,” Debbie Godwin said.
Robert Godwin had nine children and 13 grandchildren. His youngest son, Terell, had a difficult time even speaking about his father’s death. Terell’s mother, Angela Smalls, delivered a message to WKYC on his behalf.
“Godwin’s youngest son Terell got so emotional during the interview he could barely speak. But Smalls said if Steve Stephens, the man who is accused of murdering Godwin, is watching…she would want him to hear her son.”
“My daddy didn’t do anything to anyone he just shot him for no reason, for no reason.”
Many other family members got emotional after the shooting death of Robert Godwin Sr. Another grandson took to Twitter to call on people to stop circulating the video of his death.
There were others who appeared to be trying to take advantage of Godwin’s shooting death. CNN reported that at least nine GoFundMe pages were opened soliciting donations for the family, but Cleveland police said none of these were set up by the family and asked people not to contribute. The family did set up an official fundraising site, which was set to be opened Monday through the Cleveland Police Department, CNN added.
But many others, even those who never met Godwin, came together to celebrate his life. On Monday night, local residents gathered in the Cleveland neighborhood where Godwin was shot to hold a vigil for him.
Family members have not yet said when funeral services for Robert Godwin Sr. will be held, but there are already a number of local businesses offering to pay for expenses for the service.
[Featured Image by Debbie Godwin/Facebook]