Only a select few ever get to judge the best-in-show competition for the prestigious Westminster Kennel Club. So when Walter Flato Goodman heard that he was chosen to pick the top dog in 1994 at the famed show, the style-conscious judge had to dress for the occasion.
He donned his specialty made dark green coat embroidered with Skye terriers.
“Judging best-in-show is the absolute ultimate,” said Robert A. Flanders, Goodman’s longtime companion, who became his adopted son. “He was on top of the world.”
Goodman, who was known for his keen style, grace as a dog breeder and as handler and longtime American Kennel Club judge, died Sunday from heart failure and pneumonia. He was 91.
“He was pretty much an icon when it came to Skye terriers,” said Elaine Hersey, a New Hampshire-based Skye terrier breeder who knew Goodman for 30 years.
Born Aug. 15, 1922 in Rye, N.Y, Goodman went to Yale University before joining the army in January 1943. When World War II ended he returned to Yale, where he received his bachelor’s degree in international relations. He later earned a master’s in history at Columbia University.
Goodman went on to become a trust officer at the Bank of New York, an associate producer at NBC and at Mike Ellis Productions.
But his true love was purebred dogs, said Flanders.
In 1937 his mother Adele Goodman founded Glamoor Kennels. Glamoor Kennels soon became known for its terriers, breeding American, Canadian, French and Italian champions.
The Glamoor dogs racked up the ribbons — 350 terrier group firsts and 99 best-in-shows. And in 1969, Goodman’s own Skye terrier, Glamoor Good News — affectionately known as Susie — was chosen the top dog.
But getting to the show was another story because of a terrible snow storm. Determined, Goodman draped Susie around his shoulders and trudged through the snow. His aging mother followedbehind, said Goodman’s longtime friend, David Merriam.
“Someone shouted at Walter, ‘why don’t you carry your mother and let the dog walk?’ ” Merriam said. “He shouted back, ‘I am not showing my mother.’ That was Walter.”
In 1973, he moved to Miami. Two years later, he retired from the show ring and became an American Kennel Club judge, a role he filled for the next 36 years.
Throughout his run as a judge, he also remained loyal to the Skye Terrier Club of America; as its delegate he was elected to the American Kennel Club board of directors in 1988, on which he served for 24 years.
“He was the personification of a great breeder, a sportsman and gentleman,” said Dennis Sprung, his longtime friend and current president and CEO of the American Kennel Club.
For more than two dozen years, Goodman served as president of the Montgomery County Kennel Club, which sponsors the largest all-terrier show in the world in Blue Bell, Penn., each October.
Goodman was also a founding member of the American Kennel Club Museum of the Dog and of the Canine Health Foundation. As a member of the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine Board of Overseers, he co-founded with Flanders the Walter Flato Goodman Center for Comparative Medical Genetics.
In 2011 he received the American Kennel Club’s Lifetime Achievement Award; a year later he was inducted into the 2012 Anne Rogers Clark Hall of Fame at the Show Dogs of the Year Awards.
Outside of his passion for dogs, Goodman loved to travel and went around the world nine times. He also was a patron of the arts and a life trustee of Vizcaya.
“He did everything with effortless style and grace,” Flanders said.
In addition to Flanders, Goodman is survived by five nieces and nephews and his Norfolk terrier, Gypsy.
A memorial “celebration of life” will be held early next year.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to The Walter Flato Goodman Center for Comparative Medical Genetics, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, 3800 Spruce St., Philadelphia, PA 19104-6008.