Please note that the original article by QNS.com has been corrected to reflect the fact that the two victims in this murder were good guys. We thank them for correcting the record.
35 years ago this month, Woodhaven witnessed one of the more shocking acts of violence in its long history. What made it so very shocking was the fact that the crime was perpetrated by some real bad guys - against some very good men who did good work for the community. That incident we refer to was the April 1981 double murder at the Shamrock Bar on Jamaica Avenue.
This week, QNS news website posted an article about Metro NYC's "Mob Tour" of Woodhaven. The article refers to the Shamrock Bar killings, but it gets one very important thing wrong - it identifies the two victims of the crime as "gangsters" and "wannabe wise guys."
This isn't just wrong, it's a complete defamation of character.
The two victims, Richard Godkin and John D'Agnese, served as the Executive Director and Deputy Director of the South Queens' Boys Club on 111th Street and Atlantic Avenue.
Richard Godkin was a VietNam veteran who took over as Executive Director of the Boy's Club in 1971. He was a family man who lived with a wife and daughter in Richmond Hill. A year after he took the post, he and his wife would become the proud parents of twins.
Over the next decade, Mr. Godkin's name and face were regular fixtures in the Leader-Observer, announcing the many good things that the Boys' Club had to offer.
"Our primary aim is to show that the delinquency problem can be solved when youngsters are subjected to positive, productive and responsible pursuits," was the way Mr. Godkin described the Boys' Club role in our community.
One of Mr. Godkin's first projects was to raise the capital to build a swimming pool in their club on 111th Street. "A pool in the building will attract many more youngsters and in all likelihood, double our present membership," he said in announcing the project.
And over the course of 2 years, through various fundraising efforts and donations from businesses, Mr. Godkin was shown on the front page of the Leader turning on the tap, filling the pool for the very first time.
Godkin also led an effort to improve the library of the Boys' Club, to encourage the youngsters that joined to read more. He also initiated a summer program to provide special assistance to students who were held over in their grade at the end of the school year. He felt that education and the other benefits of the Boys' Club were part of an effort to make a better world.
"This program is an excellent example of our club doing its part in the one war that everyone is for -- a war for a better world for our next generation," was the way Richard Godkin described it. "Kids don't have a fighting chance without a Club."
Godkin and his partner at the Boys' Club took over ownership of the Shamrock Bar to make "a little extra money to make life work," as his wife Catherine described it. They would work long days at the club and nights at the Shamrock.
One night, a dispute occurred between two men over a spilled drink. One of the men was wildly out of control and was asked to leave. "I'll be back," he threatened. And in about 20 minutes, he returned with two friends carrying guns.
John D'Agnese was shot in the face. Richard Godkin ran to help his friend and partner and was also shot and killed.
These men were businessmen; they were contributors to our society. They were NOT gangsters; they were NOT wannabe wise guys.
The deaths of these two men left big holes not only within their families, but also in our communities. Their loss touched the lives of the many young boys they would not be able to help in the years to come. Without Godkin and D'Agnese, who knows how many young boys did not get the help they needed.
They should be remembered for their good work, and they should be remembered for the senseless way they died. They should be remembered as good men.
We have contacted the site and they acknowledged that the mistake was one they made, when researching the article. However, 2 days later, it has still not been corrected.
But it gave us the opportunity to not only set the record straight, but remind everyone about the 2 good men our communities lost on that night in April, 35 years ago this month.
The Godkin family never forgot that night, nor the pursuit for justice in the murders - and two years ago, Bartolomeo Vernace (now 65) was sentenced to life for the murders after years on the run. It's not a happy ending - how could it be? But at least the families of Richard Godkin and John D'Agnese received some form of justice.
We'll keep you informed and let you know when qns.com corrects their story. (UPDATE: See the top of this post - they did correct the article.)