The gas station Buddy Goodleaf built has passed on its generosity towards helping the community from one generation to the next. Buddy, with grandson Zach Goodleaf, who works at the garage today. (Courtesy Michelle Phillips)
For six decades, Goodleaf’s Auto & Tire provided for the community by offering help or assistance in any way possible.
Buddy Goodleaf, the man who built and managed the garage for over half a century, celebrated his 88th birthday July 11.
“Everybody knows him,” said his youngest son Brian. “The whole town knows him. Even the younger generations, they know him from stories from their parents.”
The gas bar on Highway 138 remains a staple of the community today.
“I’m talking second and third generation,” said Brian. “My dad, myself and now my son. It’s very nice, I love this place. I think I spend more time here than I do at home.”
Buddy is currently in palliative care at the Kateri Memorial Hospital Center (KMHC).
“How are you today Buddy?” this reporter asked.
“No problem,” he said as he sung along to one of Chuck Berry’s greatest hits, which played on his radio, a happy birthday balloon attached to his chair.
The Goodleaf family held two birthday parties for him at the hospital where all the residents from his floor came and enjoyed a big cake.
“Buddy played music for them and we had a nice time,” said Mouchie Goodleaf, Buddy’s eldest son.
Buddy pointed directly to his Goodleaf’s Auto hoodie emblazed with his catchphrase: “No problem.”
“That’s his favourite saying,” said Mouchie.
Another celebration is being held to commemorate all the years of service Buddy gave to his community.
“My father is and was a very generous and caring man,” said Brian. “He worked extremely hard all his life and had a very good work ethic.”
From the late 40s until the late 50s, Buddy was an ironworker in the US where he worked in cities such as Detroit, New York and Connecticut.
“I’ve been in too many different cities in the states,” said Buddy.
In his room at the hospital, he has CDs stacked on his table from classic era rockers Chuck Berry and Elvis Presley and jazz legend Ella Fitzgerald.
“That’s the kind of music he listened to while he was on the road,” said Mouchie.
After spending many years on the road, Buddy wanted to come back home to his family.
He returned in 1957, bought property and began to build the garage with the help of his late brother in-law Ray Trudeau and his best friend, the late Roy Mayo.
The garage opened in 1959 and offered towing services, gas and a scrap yard.
“He built it, he owned it and he owns it today, still,” said Mouchie.
“He was the only tow truck around, and he was an ambulance driver at the same time,” said Brian.
Buddy was one of Kahnawake’s first ambulance drivers, and is a founding member of the Kahnawake Fire Brigade.
“My father would go to the accident, take you to the hospital and then come back and get his tow truck and go get your vehicle,” said Brian, who rebuilt a 1930s-era firetruck that Buddy drove in the fire brigade’s anniversary parade.
Buddy also plowed snow for the whole community and in Chateauguay as well, “at times, we wouldn’t see him for days,” said Mouchie.
“He was very entrepreneurial, very creative and always busy, always doing something,” said Brian.
The jack-of-all trades also volunteered at the church as an usher and was a timekeeper at local sport games. He was awarded the Canadian Senate’s 150th Anniversary Medal for his volunteer work in 2017.
“I guess it poured over onto the majority of his siblings and his children. All of us have contributed to the community. My dad is a very well respected man,” said Brian.
As his health deteriorated, many swung by the shop to see how he was doing on a regular basis.
“People would stop by (the garage) just to see how he was,” said Brian. “So many people inquired about his health.”
Buddy had two severe head injuries. The first one happened in his own home.
“He was parking his car in our garage and a guy hit him with an axe,” said Mouchie.
When asked why someone would do something so violent and uncalled for, Buddy responded right away.
“Jealousy,” he said.
The second injury, in 1973, was when Buddy accidentally fell down the stairs in his garage.
“He was in a coma for over a month,” said Mouchie. “That’s why we are lucky to still have him with us today.”
“No problem today,” added Buddy.
Buddy has suffered in recent years from Alzheimer’s and dementia.
“I go see him just about every night. I see him from 6:30 p.m. to about 8:30 p.m.,” said Brian, who had lunch with his father for 38 years, while Buddy was still able to go to the garage.
“I bring him a hot chocolate with a donut and we talk. Sometimes he recognizes me. Other times, he doesn’t. But you have to understand the disease – it’s him but it’s not him doing that,” he said.
Where does Buddy’s generosity come from?
“It’s something that was made in me, that’s all,” said Buddy.
“I’m proud of my dad. He’s our caring spirit and I’m proud of all his accomplishments,” said Mouchie.