'The best Dad a girl could ask for': Family remembers war veteran, firefighter who died due to COVID-19

Posted at 3:19 PM, Jan 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-27 18:07:43-05

STANFORD, Ky. (LEX 18) — James Godby had just turned 76 years old when COVID-19 made its way into Kentucky. His daughter Melissa works in health care, so the family knew the risks. But in the end, there was no way they could leave Dad alone, and to be honest, Dad didn't want them doing that.

"That was his decision, and he wanted to be with his family," said Becky Greer, another of Godby's children. "He was very strong in his faith, and he believed God was going to take care of him," Greer continued.

Godby's wife of 52 years had passed away within the last year due to cancer, so the family felt it was important to be around him.

"He'd get that look of 'don't-go' in his eyes, even though he knew you'd be back soon," Melissa said of her father.


Godby contracted the virus sometime in October and spent five weeks on a ventilator.

"We still don't know how he got it, but that doesn't matter now," said Melissa.

"Right before they got ready to ventilate him, he called me and said, 'they're getting ready to ventilate me. I just want to tell you I love you,'" Greer explained while fighting back the tears. "I told him, 'everything is going to be okay.'"

That was the last time she ever heard her father's voice. He passed away in the hospital one month later. Godby's death comes one month after Greer's father-in-law died, also from COVID-19.

"When we were at the funeral home for his viewing, my dad was being admitted to the hospital," Greer said.

Godby served a tour of duty in Vietnam, was the deacon at his church in Science Hill, and a volunteer firefighter for that town's department. That's how his son, Jeff, a decorated firefighter and EMS technician, got into the business.


"It kept me close to dad," Godby explained. "We went to fire meetings together, went to fires together and stuff like that. So I spent a lot of time with dad. He could tell you over the phone what was wrong with your lawnmower. Usually, it was something minor. Then he'd laugh at you (for not knowing how to diagnose the issue)."

Greer said she wanted to share memories of her father because they couldn't give him a traditional funeral due to virus protocols. All three of Godby's children spoke of him in reverent tones while noting his generosity, dedication, and the sacrifices he made.

"The best dad a girl could ask for," Greer said.

So when he asked not to be left alone due to COVID-19 guidelines, it was going to be challenging to say no.

"He just loved having his family around him," Melissa said. Melissa held the phone to his ear in the hospital as the other family members said goodbye.

"We all told him that it was okay. He fought hard. He would never give up on things. And he fought until he couldn't fight anymore," Greer said.