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Gene Goodin, a painter, at the Oakland Cottage Industry Show, May 2015. Photo By: Alsanosi Adam

At age 91, Army veteran Gene Goodin has a new gig as an oil painter

on May 12, 2015

At the Oakland Cottage Industry Show at the Park Boulevard Presbyterian Church two weeks ago, more than 30 artisans gathered to show their home-made products. Among them was 91-year-old Gene Goodin, who sat quietly in front of his artwork wearing a hat that read “World War II, 1941-1945, Veteran.”

To his right was an oil painting of an old train on a railway in the countryside, the brown train crossing a green landscape of hills. He sold it later in the day for $15. Another was of an old Dutch windmill, with yellow trees and grass in the background, which he is planning to sell for $25. His paintings are very natural looking, all painted in oil paint. “I enjoy it and I keep doing it,” he laughs.

Goodin is a California native, born in 1924 in Santa Maria in Southern California. Goodin was a solder who served in the 101st U.S. Airborne Division, a U.S. Army light infantry division that conducted air assault operations during World War II. He served from 1941 to 1945. He parachuted into France, Holland and other countries. Despite being in many battles, he said, “I never got a scratch.”

After coming home from the war, Goodin went to college, got married and had four children—two boys and two girls. He worked as a credit supervisor for a chain of Northern California jewelry stores, and he moved to Oakland in 1965.

After he retired in 1984 the age of 60, Goodin decided to do something different, “I didn’t want to play golf and I didn’t want to raise roses,” he said. “So I bought a book on oil painting, and learned how to paint.”

When he started learning to paint, Goodin made 6 paintings and threw them away because he didn’t like them. Then he started again. He began to improve gradually. Most of Goodin’s work is copied out of nature magazines, but some of the images are based on a memory of something he once saw. Goodin likes to paint outdoor scenes, farms, trains, the ocean and the shy, beautiful sun hiding behind the shoulders of the giant mountains.

Before joining the Oakland Cottage Industry Show, Goodin was part of an art show organized by the city of Oakland in 2010, where he displayed his best-selling painting, which he called “Sun Rise.” He sold it for $222. Now he has been with the Oakland Cottage Industry Show for three years, and he is one of the committee members. The show is a twice-a-year event that brings together local artisans and artists to display and market their home-made work. The group started in 2012 and Goodin is a prime member.

Goodin paints at home. His workshop is one table in the middle of his living room, an easel, and two briefcases that hold his brushes and paint tubes. “Not much,” he said, “but I am happy with it.”

Goodin’s paintings are all over the U.S. He has sold paintings in Arizona, Florida, and Washington state. “There are about five or six in each place,” he recalls. He sold 275 paintings over his career as an artist, and he said it’s because he don’t charge much. Normally, it’s a negotiation process for him. His prices start at $15.

One painting takes him an average of 4 hours, but some take him about 8 hours of drawing and painting. “The ones I do paint, I enjoy,” he said. “It’s a little bit kind of spiritual,” he said. “It’s relaxing,”


  1. Jan Wall on May 18, 2015 at 9:29 am

    Fine story! But what about the auto and speedboat racing Gene did around Lake Merritt?

  2. Barbara J. Williams on May 18, 2015 at 9:58 am

    It was great to read of Genes life and as I get to know him my life is enriched. He is a quiet man of good character and authentic presence. I am happy our paths have crossed here at The Altenheim. He is a handsome man of tall and slender build and has a flair for style as he demonstrated at our Winter Ball. Congratulations for a life well lived, Gene.

    • Janet Brugos on May 18, 2015 at 11:58 am

      Great story. How about his Nascar adventures?

  3. annette warwick on May 18, 2015 at 12:42 pm

    He is the most sinfeee person you will ever meet. Besides his many talents,he is energetic active and charming

  4. annette warwick on May 18, 2015 at 12:43 pm


  5. Kyra Quon on May 20, 2015 at 6:01 am

    Thank you Alsonosi for capturing such a perfect portrait of Gene, the artist, in your words. We are so fortunate to have him on our committee and in our community. He touches many lives in his quiet way, and at age 91 he is also one of the most clear headed and reliable people around!

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