Robert “Bob” Goff, age 80, died peacefully at his St. Paul home on March 29, 2017. Loved by his family as an aspiring but unconvincing curmudgeon and a devoted husband, father and grandfather, his humor and generous spirit will be missed.
The son of Lee and Frances Goff, Bob was born on September 21, 1936, and raised in Staples, Minnesota. As a boy he enjoyed boarding the train to traverse the prairies with his father, a conductor for the Northern Pacific Railroad. Bob earned a degree in social studies education from St. Cloud State University in 1958 and taught history for five years at Mounds View High School before pursuing a career in politics and government. His love for politics developed while attending Democratic Farmer Labor (DFL) events with his mother during his youth.
Bob spent his early political career as a field campaigner for various DFL congressional candidates. He also served in the administrations of Governors Rolvaag and Perpich. Following the 1966 elections, then-Minnesota Senator Nick Coleman asked Bob to form an advertising firm with him. Coleman and Goff Advertising opened in St. Paul that same year. Bob quickly transitioned to pitching stories to the media rather than buying ads, making him one of Minnesota’s first public relations practitioners (“a happy accident,” per Bob).
Over the next five decades, Bob was a leading PR strategist behind projects ranging from the Metrodome to Xcel Energy Center. He was a key figure in DFL politics and state government, a steadfast advisor to the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, and the funniest guy in every room he entered. He served as president of several companies that evolved into the present-day Goff Public, creating great office culture before “office culture” was a thing.
Bob took particular pleasure in acting as the “Santa Claus intermediary” for his grandkids and other children. He always told them that he went to high school with Santa and could leverage this special relationship in their favor. Another Christmas tradition included Bob announcing the destination for the next family summer vacation that included all of his seven children and their families, along with his nephew Steve Goff and his family. These trips were a perfect way for the next generation to stay connected, spend time in some of the greatest cities in North America, and learn more about historic sites.
The date of November 9, 2011, was officially proclaimed “Bob Goff Day” by the City of St. Paul Mayor’s Office to honor Bob’s significant impact in the community on the 45th anniversary of Goff Public. In 2012, Bob retired, but continued to provide advice to Goff Public, and helped celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2016. During retirement he doted on his grandkids and traveled extensively with his wife Phyllis, enjoying trips to Barcelona, Paris and Ireland, among other favorite spots in Europe. He also enjoyed monthly gatherings of the “Old Farts,” a group of Minnesota leaders who were longtime friends. Ever the special events dodger, Bob would occasionally appease Phyllis by agreeing to attend social events with her.
Perhaps one of the greatest gifts that Bob Goff possessed was his innate ability to be a great encourager to so many people; to serve as mentor to family, friends and co-workers; and to inspire others to realize their potential and follow their true passions.
Bob is survived by his wife Phyllis; children Cindy, Paul (Annette), Carolyn (Steve), Laura (Cliff), Bill (Marsha), Emily (Ricardo), and Matt (Caitlin); 12 adoring grandchildren; siblings Dick (Mary), Bill (Janis) and Sandy; and whole bunches of nieces and nephews.
A celebration of life reception will be held at the Minnesota History Center in St. Paul on Monday, April 10, from 2:30-4:30 p.m., with a brief program at 3 p.m. Memorials are preferred to the Minnesota Historical Society, Regions Hospital Foundation, or HealthPartners Hospice.
Please share your favorite memory of Bob with the family at BobGoffStories@gmail.com.