In John Good, a teenage Deborah Wright saw a challenge.
The hulking, nearly 6-foot-tall friend-of-a-friend caught the attention of all of the carhops at the burger joint where she waitressed when he pulled his Volkswagen Karmann Ghia into the parking lot and lumbered out of that itty-bitty car.
He was soft-spoken and never said much. And that made him a mystery to Deborah.
“She made it her goal just to get him to talk. She was just determined to get him out of his shell,” Lisa Smith said with a chuckle while recounting the oft-told family tale. “Our mother was very persistent.”
Silence eventually turned to conversation between the pair. And conversation quickly led to dates playing pool, closeness and long motorcycle rides.
Eventually, it blossomed into a simple wedding at St. Anne’s Catholic Church in south Wichita on March 2, 1972. She was 19; he was 26.
Four babies, 20 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren followed over the next 43 years in a marriage marked by love, hard work and humor.
“They’ve been together for so long. For them to die together and be buried together – it’s just right,” Angie King, another daughter, said while wiping away a tear.
“Now neither one of them have to grieve the other. That’s just the way it needs to be.”
A little more than a week ago, while making a routine trip a few miles from their Haysville home, John and Deborah Good died after a Ford F-150 crashed head-on into their Cadillac sedan. The couple was heading north in the curbside lane of Broadway near 53rd Street South when the truck veered into their path just after 3:45 a.m. Aug. 7.
The collision killed them instantly. John Good was 69; Deborah was 62.
Wichita police last week said an officer initiated a chase with the truck’s driver, 31-year-old Orlando Lucero, at 3:37 a.m. after spotting him driving erratically and without headlights at Roosevelt and Ross Parkway in the Planeview neighborhood.
But the officer quickly called it off – in “less than a minute,” police have said – at Mount Vernon and George Washington Boulevard over fears that Lucero could pose a danger to others while fleeing.
The crash that killed the Goods happened nine minutes later and several miles away, as Lucero was speeding south down Broadway and crossed the center line. Police have said there is no indication he knew the pursuit had ended.
Lucero, who was in Wichita serving out a three-year probation term for felony firearms violations out of Oklahoma, died less than two hours later at a hospital.
The Goods’ three daughters – Smith, King and Bobbi Wright – say it was typical for their parents to be out before dawn during the week.
John Good, who drove an ethanol truck over the road to combat boredom in retirement, would make a mid-week stop in Wichita for a meal with his wife, a hot shower and a good night’s rest.
When he arrived, a family member – often Deborah if she wasn’t working her post-retirement job at a Wichita warehouse – would pick him up from 47th Street South and Lulu, where he parked his rig.
His wife would drop him back off so he could start hauling another load the next day. The Goods were doing just that the morning they died, the daughters said.
They were an hour earlier than usual, though, because John had plans with a friend and wanted to make it home that night in time for dinner.
The collision happened less than four miles from their Haysville apartment.
“The house looked like they had just gone out and Mom was going to be right back,” Wright said.
“Her purse was there, her bag of goodies for lunch was right there,” Smith said.
“She was planning on coming back.”
The other driver
Last week in a news briefing, Wichita police Capt. Jeff Weible said the officer who initiated the chase with Lucero followed proper protocol by terminating the pursuit.
Wichita police Lt. James Espinoza said Friday that investigators are still working to determine the cause of the crash and the truck’s speed leading up to the collision. Authorities also are awaiting toxicology results to see whether Lucero was impaired or intoxicated on Aug. 7. The testing could take several weeks, Espinoza said.
Police are also exploring whether Lucero is linked to recent burglaries in south Wichita, Espinoza said. Several firearms and electronics were found in and around the F-150 after the crash. On Friday, it was still unclear to whom they belonged, he said.
A check of Lucero’s criminal record shows he moved to Wichita in January 2014 after being released from an Oklahoma prison, where he served two years for felon-in-possession-of-a-firearm violations in 2011.
Spokesmen for the Kansas and Oklahoma corrections departments say Lucero had family in Kansas and asked to serve out a three-year probation term in Wichita under a program that allows offenders on parole or probation to move to another state and be supervised by officers there.
Lucero earned an earlier felony conviction in a 2010 burglary case out of Maricopa County, Ariz., according to a search of Kansas and Arizona court records.
Sedgwick County District Court and police records show Lucero was in Kansas just shy of a year when Wichita authorities jailed and charged him with aggravated assault and criminal possession of a firearm for allegedly threatening an ex-girlfriend with a handgun.
Lucero posted bond and was released in March. He was ordered to avoid using alcohol and drugs and had an 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew while awaiting adjudication of his case.
Prosecutors dropped the case 2 1/2 weeks before the crash that killed Lucero and the Goods, records show. Sedgwick County District Attorney’s Office spokesman Dan Dillon said an issue with a witness prompted the dismissal on July 22.
“In spite of repeated efforts, we were unable to secure the presence of our witness for a hearing involving the aggravated assault case against Orlando Lucero,” Dillon wrote in an e-mailed response to questions about the aggravated assault case.
“Unless the witness were to be found we would be unable to prove the charges.”
The Goods’ daughters, in their interviews with The Eagle, expressed condolences to Lucero’s family over his death. They said they think of him as more than “just the driver of the truck.”
“Our hearts and prayers go out to his family,” Smith said. “He was a life. He was a son, somebody’s friend. He was possibly somebody’s brother.”
Alternating between laughter and tears, King, Smith and Wright sat in a circle in the living room of Smith’s Haysville home Thursday afternoon, reminiscing over their parents’ lives.
The meeting came in preparation of the Goods’ memorial service Saturday at Glenville Baptist Church.
There, the sisters would bid farewell to a mother who doled out cooking and parenting advice when asked and to a father who, despite his penchant for silence, would burst into an occasional nonsensical song concocted to draw giggles from his children and grandchildren.
People who knew John best called him by his middle name, Tom. His wife was simply Debbie.
He was quiet but goofy. She was outgoing. Neither knew a stranger.
“Wherever Mom went she listened to anybody who had something to say,” King said. “She always took on that mom role or that sister role or that friend role, whatever it was.
“She touched the lives of people that we probably will never even know.”
She feels the same way about her father.
“As he traveled, he touched a lot of people on his routes, too,” she said.
John, one of three children, was born in Ada, Okla., on Jan. 8, 1946. Deborah, one of seven children, was born in El Dorado on Sept. 30, 1952. They met and lived their married lives in the Wichita area.
Before his short-lived retirement at age 62, John worked a long career driving a passenger bus, first for Trailways and later for Greyhound and for the city of Wichita. He earned a number of safety awards during his tenure.
But boredom set in during retirement, and he returned to work less than a year later, this time transporting fuel.
Deborah, likewise, didn’t take well to her 2008 retirement from a 23-year government career, mostly as a U.S. Postal Service mail carrier.
After taking some time to visit her children – Smith in Haysville, Wright and King in New Mexico and their brother John Tyler Good in Kentucky – she started working at a local Western wear warehouse.
“They were just good, decent, hardworking people,” Wright said. “They worked their whole lives.”
Despite the joy John and Deborah Good knew, in later years the couple also suffered loss, their daughters said.
Their son, a military man with a wife and children, was diagnosed with brain tumors and died in 2011 at age 28.
John Tyler’s death “just really devastated both of them,” Wright said of her parents. “I don’t think they ever really recovered.”
Around the same time the Goods’ son received his diagnosis, doctors told John he had bladder cancer. His daughters say he managed to overcome the disease at age 65, but the chemotherapy, radiation and surgeries created lasting health problems.
Their mother, they say, was one of his caretakers through the end.
“It gives me a great deal of comfort knowing my parents died together,” Smith said. “Daddy had a hard time with just the whole concept of getting older. … The idea of him having to succumb to us taking care of him was incredibly hard for him.
“So if there were a way to choose a death, this is what Daddy would have chosen. It was quick. He didn’t suffer. He died instantly.
“And he was with Mom.”
The family of John and Deborah Good is asking that donations made in the couple’s memory be sent to the foundation established in honor of their son, John Tyler Good, who died of brain cancer in 2011. The fund covers costs incurred by ailing servicemen and servicewomen and their families that are not paid for by the military, including transportation and babysitting fees.
Send checks, cash or money orders to:
The John Good Fund
c/o Defenders of Freedom
320 Highway 121, Suite 203
Coppell, TX 75019
Memorials can also be made online at defendersoffreedom.us. Write “John Good Fund” in the memo line.