Agnes ‘Connie’ Godwin
Veteran newspaperwoman became an editor in Alaska and later a press secretary to U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens
Agnes “Connie” Godwin, a former newspaper editor and press secretary to Alaska’s Sen. Ted Stevens, died Nov. 15 of complications from dementia at Shore Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Chestertown.
The longtime Kent County resident was 90.
“Connie was a hoot and always did things her way,” said Margie Elsberg, a longtime friend and former city editor of the Prince George’s Journal who taught journalism courses with Mrs. Godwin at Washington College in Chestertown.
“She thrived on the success of other people and she was everything about making sure that everyone around her knew she was rooting for them, and for them to be spectacularly successful,” Ms. Elsberg said.
Born Agnes Conway, she was the daughter of William Conway, who had worked in his early career for The Baltimore Sun and later became a Hearst newspaper editor, and Mary Josephine Conway, a homemaker.
She never used her given first name, family members said.
Because of her father’s newspaper career, she was raised in Washington, Boston and Chicago, and graduated in 1943 from Notre Dame Academy in Washington.
She attended the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va., and while a reporter for the college newspaper, she “helped break a story that was picked up by the Associated Press about college quotas for minorities,” wrote Ms. Elsberg in an email profile of her friend.
Mrs. Godwin took a job at The Washington Post as a copy girl, “a job she was proud of for the rest of her life,” Ms. Elsberg wrote.
Before her marriage, she worked at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory as a “do-it-all girl,” Ms. Elsberg said.
In 1951, she married Stuart Godwin, an FBI special agent whose assignments took the couple and their children to Knoxville, Tenn., Miami and eventually Anchorage, Alaska, where she resumed her newspaper career as an editor at The Anchorage Times.
“Connie loved stories about people and got a kick out of knowing celebrities. She loved being with people who were successful,” Ms. Elsberg said. “She liked the spotlight and liked sharing it.”
In the late 1970s, when her husband was contemplating retiring from the FBI, the couple decided to move back East. In a rented car, they toured Pennsylvania and later spotted a sign for Chestertown.
As a small child, Mr. Godwin had seen a performance on a showboat docked in Chestertown, and he decided he wanted to see the town again. Ms. Elsberg said that when the couple swung into town, they decided it had everything they were looking for: “hospital, college, water, pleasant atmosphere.”
They returned to Anchorage and by phone directed the building of their home in Chestertown on Birch Run Road. They moved there in 1980.
With her children mostly grown, Mrs. Godwin again returned to newspaper work when she took a job at the Kent County News as a reporter for editor Hurtt Derringer.
One day, Mrs. Godwin’s phone rang and it was Alaska’s Senator Stevens calling. She had gotten to know him in Anchorage when she interviewed him for articles.
He had heard she had moved to the Washington area, and offered her a oneday-a-week job as his press secretary.
It quickly became full time, but because she did not drive, Mrs. Godwin maintained a Capitol Hill apartment. Her husband drove her to work Monday mornings and brought her back to Chestertown on Friday evenings.
When Mrs. Godwin retired in 2000 at age 74, she was the longest-serving press secretary on the Hill at the time. Ms. Elsberg wrote that her friend was also the oldest — “her favorite statistic.” Mitch Rose, now a senior vice president and lobbyist for NBC Universal, worked with Mrs. Godwin in Senator Stevens’ office for nine years. In a letter to Ms. Elsberg, he called Mrs. Godwin “the steady rock in Ted Stevens’ press operation for years.”
“They were peers in age and, much like him, she was more concerned with getting the work done right rather than getting the credit,” he wrote.
A diminutive woman whose cheerful face was framed by gold rimless glasses, Mrs. Godwin had a ready smile and wit, and extraordinary energy.
In 2003, she and Ms. Elsberg began teaching occasional journalism classes at Washington College. For the classes, she brought guest speakers from the world of newspapers and the media.
She was active in the civic life of Chestertown and served on the boards for Kent Youth Inc., the Chester River Hospital and its foundation, the Kent County Historical Society and organizations such as the Soroptimists and Questers.
Mrs. Godwin had also been a docent at the historic Geddes Piper House.
Family members recalled her favorite warning when a dangerous situation loomed: “Ah! Ah! Sharp corner! Sharp corner!”
In addition to being involved in the civic life of Chestertown and Kent County, Mrs. Godwin enjoyed collecting cookbooks and cooking.
“She was a versatile and inventive cook,” her husband said.
“Connie was most outgoing, generous and always eager to learn about you,” Ms. Elsberg said. “She knew no age, and had friends of every age and would not let go of you. She celebrated you.”
Plans for a memorial service to be held in the spring are incomplete.
In addition to her husband of 65 years, she is survived by a son, Mark Godwin of Des Moines; a daughter, Mary-Stuart “Peekie” O’Connor of Des Moines; three grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren. She had two other sons; Christian “Chris” Godwin, a newspaper copy editor, died in 2009, and Gregory Godwin died as a child. Connie Godwin resumed her career after moving to Chestertown.