William Edward Godfrey

Published 12:07 am Thursday, September 14, 2017

NATCHEZ — Services for William Edward Godfrey III, who died Monday, Sept. 11, 2017, at his residence in Natchez will be at 11 a.m. Friday at First Presbyterian Church in Natchez with the Rev. Clyde Ray Webber officiating.

Burial will follow the service at the Natchez City Cemetery under the direction of Laird Funeral Home.

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Visitation will be from 9:30 a.m. until service time in Stratton Chapel of the First Presbyterian Church.

Mr. Godfrey was born on Oct. 18, 1952, in Natchez to William Edward Godfrey II and Irene Shields Godfrey.    

He graduated from South Natchez High School, attended the University of Mississippi, and graduated from the University of Southern Mississippi with a degree in petroleum geology.  He did field study at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and spent his professional life working as a petroleum geologist in Louisiana and Mississippi.

Ed was involved in almost every aspect of civic life in the Natchez community and no one loved Natchez more than Godfrey.  He was a long-time member of the First Presbyterian Church where he served on the Session.  He initiated the church’s annual Men’s Culinary Event and was instrumental in its continued success. He was a longtime member of the Natchez Planning Commission.  He served as President of the Natchez Geological Society and participated in the Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Natchez program as leader of his class. 

He served on the Board of Directors of the Historic Natchez Foundation and, with his wife Laura, played a leading role in producing the Great Mississippi River Balloon Race.  From 1989 to 2013, he was officially in charge of the festival site but was also involved in almost every aspect of the event.  To many people in the community, Ed and Laura, who served many years as chairman, were the public faces of the balloon race. He was also a founder and past chairman of the Blessing of the Flotilla, a Fourth of July event on Lake St. John, and a member of the Natchez Santa Claus Committee. He was also instrumental in the early success of the Natchez Food and Wine Festival.   

Mr. Godfrey was never a taker — he was a lifelong giver.  He always stepped forward to offer his assistance in community events.  He used his experience with the Great Mississippi River Balloon Race to help other organizations with their festivals.  He was the guy who always showed up to lend his support and ended up running out for more ice and carrying out the trash.  One typical example of his never-failing ability to save the day occurred in 2000 at a fundraiser for the Natchez Festival of Music.  Volunteers realized that they had failed to cook the rice for a Sunday afternoon gumbo reception at the Natchez Institute.  Although he had no role in the event, Godfrey dashed out of the building and quickly returned with plenty of cooked rice — from the remains of two hotel buffets and a Chinese restaurant.

Once Godfrey ventured into the woods in 95-degree heat to cut smilax for a friend to use in decorating for a wedding.  After someone accidentally discarded the black plastic bags with the smilax, he returned to the woods.  Whatever someone needed, Godfrey was always the person to turn to for help, and he never failed to deliver. 

He scouted sites and gathered props for movie production companies. He organized magazine shoots. 

He assisted tour directors, tour groups, and writers for newspapers and magazines.  In 1998, he received the Mississippi Community Volunteer Award from the Mississippi Division of Tourism. 

Mr. Godfrey was a very attentive husband, father, son, brother, uncle, cousin and friend.  He was a voracious reader whose interests were broad and his knowledge impressive.  He was an avid lover of nature, a gardener, and an expert bird watcher. He was blessed with a liberal bleeding heart that had room for everyone, and he cared deeply for those less fortunate, including helpless animals. The best way to honor Ed Godfrey’s life is to work harder at being a giver instead of a taker.    

Mr. Godfrey was preceded in death by his mother; niece Caroline Shields Brown; and nephew Coyle Sessions Brown.

Survivors include his wife, Laura Breland Godfrey; son, William Edward Godfrey IV; father, William Edward Godfrey II and wife, Rose; sister, Shields Godfrey Brown and husband, Larry L. “Butch” Brown; brother, The Rev. Samuel Godfrey and wife, Patty; brothers-in-law, Gregory Breland and Allen Breland and wife, Mitzi; nephews, Russell Godfrey, Jackson Breland, and Larry L. Brown Jr. and wife, Mattie; niece, Marianna Breland; and first cousins, Ralph “Trippy” Shields III, Clare Shields and wife, Tammy; Kathleen Taunton and husband, Mark; Ross McGehee, Thomas McGehee and wife, Nan, Bruce McGehee and wife, Kathy; and his beloved dog, Sadie. 

Honorary Pallbearers will be Alex Allain, Thomas Ater, Jackson Breland, Lucius Butts, Joe Carpenter, Mark Coffey, Elliot Ernst, John Faulkenberry, John Haile, Scott Hanson, Sam Kirby, Jimmy McCarstle, Ritchie Montgomery, Bill Sampson, Trippy Shields and Doug Singletary.    

Memorial gifts may be sent to the First Presbyterian Church, 400 State St., Natchez, MS 39120 or the Natchez Adams County Humane Society, P. O. Box 549, Natchez, MS 39121-0549.