Gillian Wendy Slater-Godfrey was an extraordinary woman. From her birth in London on June 14, 1929 to her peaceful passing in Connecticut on October 8, 2021, she had the gift of connecting with others. In fact, Wendy’s generosity of spirit led her to always know what an intimate moment required to make it memorable, by either offering loving advice, compliments, witticisms, intellectual insights, lines of poetry & song and if you were very lucky– a dirty limerick or two!
Trained as an occupational therapist at Dorset House, Oxford and St. Lloys, Exeter, Devon in 1952, she combined the gift of connection with her creative talents. Wendy, or Gillian as she referred to herself professionally, had a long career as an occupational therapist including working in the Napsbury Surrey County Psychiatric hospital and Netherne Psychiatric Hospital in the UK, the Princess Margaret Hospital for Children in Trinidad, as the senior art therapist at Deveraux Ranch School in Goleta, California, to teaching art at the British School of Brussels. From Europe, Gillian came to Princeton where she first became involved with the AAMH creating the Boarding Home Outreach Program. This position allowed her to bring love and compassion to those who society overlooks. All these years of experience led to her final and most significant professional achievement of her life, which was the first director and creative force behind the Suzanne Patterson Center / Princeton Senior Resource Center. Gillian created the center as a place of genuine community where everyone was welcome and they knew it. She brought her unique ability to emanate an energy of light, learning, collectivism and ultimately love to people’s lives. In fact, so significant was her impact on the center that upon her retirement in 1994 the then Mayor of the Borough of Princeton, Marvin R. Reed, issued a Proclamation, declaring May 5th, 1994 as “Gillian Godfrey Day”!
After her retirement, Wendy further developed her passions and gifts as a gardener, an artist and a writer, all of which continued to flourish and evolve even up to her last moments, demonstrating that one is never too old to live life creatively and to its fullest. Furthermore, she never stopped creating community wherever she went, including in Willimantic CT where she spent much time with her daughter, her daughter-in-law and their friends, all of whom who quickly became her friends as well.
Predeceased by her husband of 58 years, Dr. Leonard E. A. Godfrey, Wendy leaves behind her son Nicholas Godfrey, his wife Allison, their two children Slater and Alta of Boston MA; her daughter Dr. Phoebe Godfrey, her wife Tina, of Willimantic, CT and their son Dylan Fedora of Brattleboro, VT. Her beloved cat Cleome now has a new happy home and lives on ‘Godfrey Street’ in Willimantic. It would be an understatement to say that she will be missed by us and all who knew her, but at the same time the love she gave continues to grow, to bear fruit and will do so far into the future.
Finally, it must be said that up to her last moment, Wendy lived her life according to her deeply seated values of compassion, empathy, generosity, equity, respect, grace and dignity. In homage to her favorite poet, William Blake and his poem Jerusalem, she never ceased from mental fight, nor did her sword sleep in her hand, and there is no doubt that she has returned to England’s green and pleasant land.
Those who would like to support Wendy’s lifelong commitment to social justice and the empowerment of those in need may make donations in her name to any of the following non-profit organizations: The Guardian (online newspaper that she supported); CLiCK Willimantic (co-founded by her daughters); The Children’s Home Society of New Jersey (run by her neighbor and friends); The Suzanne Patterson Center / Princeton Senior Resource Center (where she worked); the AAMH of West Windsor Township (also where she worked); or any other of their choice.
A Celebration of Life will be held on Saturday, December 11, 2021 at the Nassau Inn 12:30-3:00pm in the Palmer room. Please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org.