Agnes ‘Con­nie’ God­win

Vet­eran news­pa­per­woman be­came an edi­tor in Alaska and later a press sec­re­tary to U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens

Baltimore Sun - - OBITUARIES - By Fred­er­ick N. Ras­mussen fras­mussen@balt­sun.com

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.

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