Port Angeles’ ‘mother of massage’ therapy to celebrate 100th birthday

PORT ANGELES — Long before it was a mainstream thing, Doris Goodman taught this community about massage.

And while she was at it, she threw in another fresh concept: organic eating.

Goodman, founder of the House of Health massage center and cafe in Port Angeles, circa 1979, will turn 100 on Thursday.

That event is bookended by parties for the woman that Lynn Keenan, owner of the Renaissance massage studio, called “the mother of massage” in Clallam County.

The first was a Sept. 13 gathering at Renaissance at Front and Peabody streets.

Next comes an open house at the Port Angeles Senior Center from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday.

And a Goodman family get-together is planned after that.

This is a woman who knows how to celebrate life, her son-in-law, John Wagner, said in an interview.

“Those who know her aren’t so much amazed as they are pleased” that Goodman is reaching the century mark, he added.

A native of Spokane, Doris Couch came west in 1954 to manage Port Angeles’ Sears store.

She later ran the Boulevard grocery and then served as accountant and manager at the Eltrich construction company, where she met Kermit Goodman, who would become her third husband.

Back to school at age 70

The pair, both in their mid-60s, retired for a short while, did some traveling across the United States and then returned to the Pacific Northwest where Goodman attended what is now Western Washington University in Bellingham.

There, she pursued her lifelong dream of becoming a massage therapist.

And back in Port Angeles in the late 1970s, Goodman fulfilled that dream, though not without some resistance from some who weren’t so sure about her operating a, gasp, massage “parlor.”

So “it took me a little while” to open the school, “but not too long because I was well-known,” she said in an interview.

Business people — including the burly owner of a local bar — came in for massages regularly.

Goodman remembers having to hop up onto her table and use her elbows on some of the beefier clients.

By 1980, her massage school was thriving, but Goodman kept classes small, while sharing with her students the joy she found in her profession.

House of Health

At the House of Health, she also opened the Kitchen Loft, a cafe featuring healthful dishes with ingredients from Kermit’s garden.

Goodman ran the operation for a dozen years, until Kermit’s health began to fail.

He died in 1993 at age 85.

“Doris integrated [massage training] with life,” said Patricia Carter, a practicing massage therapist since she attended Goodman’s school 25 years ago.

“She thought people should know how to cook healthy meals, so she did cooking classes.

“And one day, it was a beautiful day, and she said, ‘You need to be well-rounded,’ so we went to Crescent Beach and looked at tide pools.”

Carter also has vivid memories of how Goodman introduced Port Angeles to a natural health care modality.

“She opened doors for all of us, in a town that probably hadn’t heard much about massage,” Carter said.

“We all stand on her shoulders.”

Goodman, for her part, said she has always had a healthy supply of determination.

Polio at 25

“One thing that is kind of amazing,” she said, “is when I was 25, I had polio, and a doctor told me I’d never walk again.”

This was 1935, but the young woman managed to find a naturopath who told her to “exercise — all day, like it’s a job.”

She moved to Birch Bay near Blaine, where she swam daily while her son Cecil, then 6, waited on the dock, catching her crutches when she tossed them up to him.

Goodman went on to raise five children — Cecil, Carole, Gracie, Sharon and Linda.

Her two eldest are deceased. Gracie Olson and Sharon Wagner live in Port Angeles while Linda Taylor lives in Tucson, Ariz.

Their mom practiced massage therapy well into her 80s.

Until about three years ago, she was still giving family members and friends guidance in the art.

“She’s a tough teacher,” John Wagner said.

But his mother-in-law has never been one to take everything else too seriously.

“When something happens that most of us would be irritated about, would curse about, she tends to giggle about it,” he said.

“That’s so healthy. She’s given that to me.”

He also remembers hearing from other former students that she has never, and will never, pay for a massage in this town.

“Doris cannot pay for a massage,” the graduate said.

“We owe them to her.”


Features Editor Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3550 or at [email protected]

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