NEGAUNEE, Mich. (WLUC) - Family and friends gathered this afternoon to celebrate the life of one of Negaunee's treasured residents.
The man they called "Goofus" passed away unexpectedly on March 27, and Saturday many paid their respects for the beloved Negaunee man.
He was well known for his polka cello, a one-of-a-kind instrument that he played for thousands throughout the years.
"He was a cheerleader for Michigan State, he was also a cheerleader for Northern Michigan University at time to time. And when Northern Michigan University went out to Providence, R.I., and they took the title, I was out there with Goofus and he had drove up from Florida. He had more publicity for his polka cello in Providence, R.I. than Northern Michigan University itself. One of the photos that was taken of him at the hockey game at the finals - there was many photographers taking pictures while he was singing on his polka cello - when they broke in to ask him a comment, Goofus said, 'I play my polka cello backwards. I don't care where I'm going, I just like to see where I've been.' That photo ended up on the front page of the Providence, R.I. paper, and that's all it said, that caption. It stuck with him out there quite a while," explains Thomas Stanaway, a life-long friend of Goofus' and the Negaunne VFW Post Trustee.
Goofus was on his eighth polka cello when he passed away. His family doesn't know what they're going to do with the unique instrument yet, but would like to share it with the community.
"Negaunee was first. This is where he grew up. He had that ability to come across to the public with the use of that polka cello and whatever it was, he could get his point across and also get everybody involved," says Goofus' nephew, R.J. Maki.
Goofus was also well known for his love for the Negaunee Miners athletic teams and the rest of his community.
"He was such a genuine guy. It still hasn't hit most of us yet but, you never could count Goof out. He just had that zest, he was full of zest and just very zestful. It was catchy, whenever you were around him , you couldn't help but catch that zest yourself, and that's how he was. He was just a loving guy and everybody is gonna miss him. But everybody is going to take something away from him, and that they got a chance to know him in this space and time we call life. We're better people from knowing him and being around him," says Maki.