On Monday, April 26, 2021, the Hartford, CT community lost an eminent master artist, the “John Henry” of sign painting, Reginal Samuel Goggins, to metastatic lung cancer. Although Reggie lived in Springfield, MA for the past two decades, his heart, home, and handiwork were in the community of Hartford, CT. Reggie, as he was affectionately known, was born to the late Corine and George Goggins in Jacksonville, Florida on February 8, 1944. Reggie benefited from an extended family and enjoyed the love and teachings from his Grandmother Mary Small who taught him life-lessons, including how to cook and sew.
Reggie attended public schools in Jacksonville and was graduated from Matthew W. Gilbert High School in 1962. Reggie discovered his drawing skills at the age of six years and excelled in art from that moment forward. Primarily, a self-taught artist, he carried that passion into Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (A & M) in the fall of 1962 where he majored in Fine Arts. A few years later, Reggie changed his course of study from Fine Arts to Fine Alice, his college sweetheart. Reggie’s artistic skills continued to flourish but he soon matriculated into fatherhood and left school in his junior year, with a promise to return.
In 1966 Reggie traveled to Hartford, CT. where he would unknowingly begin the next phase of his life. In July 1967 he married Jeanette Strawther and to this union three children were born, Wayne, Phyllis, and Jackie. With a focus now on his new family, Reggie worked for several businesses, Pratt and Whitney and Womack Printers. He painted and sketched pictures whenever time permitted.
In the late 80’s the course of Reggie’s life changed drastically, and he quickly learned what it meant to be a starving artist who was “alone and down on his luck”. He met a fellow artist named Joe Young, Jr. who used his resources to provide Reggie with “studio” space in the SAND Corporation. As years passed, Reggie would continue to hone his artistic skills and soon monetized his talents painting portraits, banners, business vans, buses, and trucks, store signs, churches, and houses. He also designed business logos, holiday and birthday cards and painted signage on walls, windows, and walkways.
Reggie was a true professional artist who put thought, love, and care into every project he accepted. One could say that Reggie was the unofficial master artist of the North-End Revitalization Team. His signature serifs surfaced throughout the Hartford, CT community enhancing its professional image. Reggie had a unique style of painting that was discernible from a distance. Reggie not only made businesses look good, but people as well. He was an image maker.
In 1990 his signature serifs found their way onto a business banner for the then, Hartford educator, Beryl Irene Bailey’s, “Building Positive Self-Images,” an educational consulting company. After two years of illustrating the contents of Beryl’s brain, a partnership, close and loving relationship, and bond were formed. In 1994, a restored, reinvented, and reinvigorated Reggie collaborated with Beryl and illustrated over 75 themed pieces of artwork for the first “Turning Obstacles into Opportunity” Exhibit. Reggie prolifically and fluidly painted the maxim, “An opportunity is an obstacle masked in optimism.” Using his artistic genius, Reggie helped to educate and inspire thousands of educators and families from Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey, about the importance of building positive self-images in children.
Over the course of the next 26 years Reggie and Beryl would create unforgettable memories with their blended families. Reggie would continue to mentor Beryl in design and help to fuel her innovation for educational products to help transform the thinking of educators, parents, and students across this country. They were a talented, tenable, and tenacious team. The truth is Reggie was Beryl’s wind and her wings.
Reginal Samuel Goggins was the “jack of all trades and the master of all things art.” He had the soul and touch of George Washington Carver. His “adopted” daughter Virginia often teased him about going to college with Dr. Carver. Reggie would grow beautiful flowers, study their development, and paint their stages of growth. He had a quiet demeanor but, was wise beyond his years.
Reggie was also a gentle giant, a man of small stature, but he had a big heart, and a love for his family, friends, and the community. This truth was witnessed on his deathbed. Two weeks before Reggie transitioned, he was on FaceTime with his grandson Matthew, who lives in Florida. Reggie paused his pain to give Matthew an art lesson. After the call, he left instructions to send Matthew a copy of his last drawing and some of his art books. In the words of Reggie, “If your heart is empty, your head don’t matter.” Reggie’s heart was always full.
Reggie was preceded in death by his grandmother; Mary Small, his parents; Corine and George Goggins, his daughter; Phyllis Goggins. Phyllis was the forerunner of “black girl magic” and the Amanda Gorman of jump roping. She was a Double Dutch Diva who set and still holds the world record for Double Dutch. Phyllis jumped before Queen Elizabeth and the Mayor of London in 1983. https://www.courant.com/obituaries/hc-extraordinary-life-phyllis-goggins-1129-20151129-story.html . Before her transition in 2015, Phyllis became a licensed practical nurse, laid a strong foundation for her five children, and left a legacy of learning.
Reggie was also preceded in death by his sister-in-law; Genevieve Strawther-Redfield, and brother-in-law; Leonard H. Strawther, Jr. He leaves to his legacy: his loving companion of 31 years; Dr. Beryl Irene Bailey (MA), the mothers of his children; Alice Herreira (FL) and Jeanette Goggins, four children; Michael Paragon (GA), Wayne, Jackie, and Virginia Bailey-Barnes (Raymond) (GA), daughter-in-law; Sheila Paragon (FL), 14 grandchildren; 15 great grandchildren, one brother; Myron (Sandra) (TN), and a host of nieces, nephews, cousins, and great friends.
In lieu of flowers and edible fruit arrangements, Dr. Bailey is requesting that friends and family consider purchasing the children’s book, “Beautiful Shades of Brown: The Art of Laura Wheeler Waring”, by Nancy Churnin. Wheeler-Waring was a native Hartford, CT African American artist, whose portraits of famous African Americans helped to enrich the Harlem Renaissance and bolster self-esteem. The collection of books will be donated in Reggie’s honor to the 4th grade classrooms in Hartford and Bloomfield, CT. The book is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Books can be sent directly to Dr. Beryl Irene Bailey, 207 Middlesex Street, Springfield, MA 01109.
Reggie’s body has been entrusted to the Forastiere Funeral Home for cremation. A celebration of life service is planned for Thursday, May 6, 2021 from 4:00 p.m.-7:00 p.m. and will be held at 220 North Main Street, East Longmeadow, MA 01028. Services will also be live streamed. The family is reserving the hour of 4:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m. for well-wishers who want to pay their respects and leave. There is a 75-person limit for the Celebration.
To plant a tree in memory of Reginal Goggins, please click here.