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'Real life Indiana Jones,' adventurer John Goddard dies at 88

May 20, 2013|By Tiffany Kelly, tiffany.kelly@latimes.com
  • Explorer John Goddard poses in 2005 with an artifact collected on one of his many adventures. Goddard, a longtime La Canada Flintridge resident, died last week at the age of 88.
Explorer John Goddard poses in 2005 with an artifact collected… (SCOTT ROBY )

John Goddard, the La Cañada Flintridge adventure-seeker who earned the nickname “the real life Indiana Jones,” has died. He was 88.

When he was 15 years old, Goddard made a list of 127 goals, from exploring the Nile River to scaling Mt. Kilimanjaro. He completed all but a few of the tasks, some of them death-defying, earning international recognition.

After a battle with a rare form of cancer, Goddard passed away on Friday, May 17 at Glendale Adventist Medical Center, said his son, Jeffery Goddard.

Born in July 29, 1924 in Salt Lake City, Goddard was the son of Percival Lundberg “Jack” Goddard and Lettie Alice Sorenson. He was raised in Los Angeles and lived most of his adult life in a La Cañada Flintridge home on Beulah Drive.

Goddard was always interested in people and different cultures. He spent his childhood reading encyclopedias and studied anthropology and psychology at USC.

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During his expeditions, he aspired to reach further than previous explorers. Goddard was the first man to explore the entire length of the Nile and Congo rivers.

Even while serving in World War II as a young man, he broke records. He hit a speed record of 1,500 mph in the F-111 and an altitude record of 63,000 feet in the F-106 Delta Dart as a civilian jet pilot.

After overhearing a family friend express regret that he had not done more in his lifetime, Goddard decided that his life would be different. He created the “Life List” and began checking the goals off, one by one.

Some of the entries on the list were modest: learn to play polo, visit a movie studio, become an Eagle Scout. Others were riskier: climb the Matterhorn, ride an ostrich and milk a poisonous snake.

Writing down a goal is important, Goddard told the Los Angeles Times in 2004. “Most people say, 'Someday ... ' And that doesn't mean anything.”

In his lifetime, Goddard survived quicksand, a plane crash, malaria and pirates. He climbed 12 of the tallest mountains in the world and visited almost every country.

He loved to share stories of his adventures. He completed two books, “The Survivor: 24 Spine-Chilling Adventures on the Edge of Death” and “Kayaks Down the Nile.” As a lecturer, he spoke at local schools and libraries.

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