Edythe Goodridge, who dedicated much of her life to promote and celebrate the heritage, arts and culture of Newfoundland and Labrador, has died.

​Goodridge, who was born in St. John's in 1937, is being remembered as a "powerhouse" for a career that included the Canada Council, Memorial University's art gallery and the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council, which she helped launch. She passed away on Wednesday at the age of 77. 

Goodridge was a long-time resident of Salvage, a community she was imminently passionate about.  

Michael Enright, host of CBC's Sunday Edition, was a friend of Goodridge's, and it was in Salvage that their friendship was born.

"Thirteen years ago, we went down to Salvage for the Winterset in Summer Festival, [and] we rented her house," Enright told On the Go host Ted Blades.  

"She was a force of nature. She was articulate, she was funny — actually hilarious. And she made us feel right at home. We didn't feel as if we were from away, she just settled us in, and told us about the village [of Salvage], about the fish plant. And from there every year, we spent hours with her," he said. 

'She was such a powerhouse; and what an energetic, compassionate and committed woman on putting Newfoundland artists on the map.' - Producer-director Barbara Doran 

 Enright said Goodridge was proud of her province — and fiercely defended it.  "You have to understand that when she went up to Ottawa, she was with the Canada Council, she was shocked by the kind of dismissive attitude people, particularly federal bureaucrats in Ottawa, had of Newfoundland," he said.

"She was so – and I'll use the word advisedly – obsessed – with the history, the culture, the talent that was in Newfoundland. There were people who made fun of the place and dismissed it, and had no idea of the vibrancy of the culture. I remember when she talked to me about her reactions in Ottawa, she would get all squinty-eyed. I could just visualize her taking on these faceless bureaucrats in Ottawa and talking about Newfoundland."

Winterset in Summer

Enright said Goodridge will be remembered at this year's Winterset in Summer, a literary event that is staged annually in Eastport. It was founded by journalist Richard Gwyn, in memory of his first wife, Sandra Fraser Gwyn. 

"She was so central with Richard ... she was a catalyst, she was central to the thing. It was the panoply of art, music, poetry, fiction, non-fiction, plays — everything. She touched all the bases, and touched an awful lot of hearts in the doing."

Goodridge was instrumental in the founding of many cultural organizations in the province, and had served on several national arts organizations and federal cultural agencies. She was also a founding member of the Newfoundland Historic Trust.

In the 1970s, she became curator and director of the Memorial University Art Gallery. In 1980, she was given the responsibility by the provincial government of establishing an arts council in the province.

Putting Newfoundland artists on the map

'She made us feel right at home. We didn't feel as if we were from away, she just settled us in, and told us about the village [of Salvage], about the fish plant. And from there every year, we spent hours with her' - Michael Enright, host of CBC's Sunday Edition 

Well-known director and producer Barbara Doran was also a long-time friend of Goodridge

"I met her for the first time about 47 years ago, we're connected through family. I remember seeing this woman who was so sophisticated, so worldly and so outrageous. And my thought was, 'When I grow up, I want to be Edythe Goodridge,'" said Doran. 

Doran told On the Go that Goodridge had helped aspiring artists on numerous occasions. 

"She was such a powerhouse, and what an energetic, compassionate and committed woman on putting Newfoundland artists on the map. She had such generosity of spirit." 

Doran, producer of The Grand Seduction, recalled attending dinner parties at Goodridge's Salvage home, including one last year. "I remember dancing in her kitchen to Paolo Conte, one of her favourite artists. Edythe Goodridge hasn't died, she is a bright, energetic flame that has burned out, and a great loss to all of us," Doran said. 

Condolences from NLAC

Reg Winsor, executive director of the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council, expressed condolences on her passing.

“Goodridge tirelessly worked for Newfoundlanders and Labradors, raising the profile of the arts and cultural sector for more than four decades," he said in a statement. 

“She was the first executive director of the NLAC upon its founding in 1980 and was determined to start building momentum for our mission to foster and promote the creation and enjoyment of the arts for all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.”

With files from Ted Blades