Grenvillle Goodwin — seven decades peering into the eyes of Ottawa residents

“I didn’t retire, I was fired.”

Dr. Grenville Goodwin states this with a chuckle, but it’s clear he is not thrilled about quitting his job even though he’s ninety years old.

“My wife insists, it’s not my idea.”

Goodwin has been an Ottawa Optometrist since 1952. His patients have included prime ministers, opposition leaders, governors-general and thousands and thousands of everyday Ottawa-area residents.

“The patients are very upset, they expected him to last forever,” says his wife, Audrey. “If it was up to him he’d still be working. He loves his patients."

Regular clients of Sparks Street Optometry usually get much more than an eye exam and a pair of glasses. Goodwin is a born storyteller always ready to express opinions on a variety of topics including other sectors of the vision industry.

“We nicknamed it slash for cash,” he says, a reference to the still-common technique of cutting the eye with a scalpel-like tool to surgically improve eyesight. Nowadays, of course, lasers are also used. “It’s improved a great deal,” he says. "The results I see now are quite good.” When you are in business for close to seventy years you see a lot of changes.

Goodwin points to a bulky-looking vision analyzer in the corner of his office. He says it cost him 200 thousand dollars, but he stopped using it long ago.

“I was on national TV with that thing because it was the first computerized system sold in Canada. The patient had a little controller. Now it’s obsolete, nothing lasts too long these days," he says.

Goodwin took over the business sixty seven years ago after the sudden death of his father who was also named Grenville and was also an optometrist. He had started the practice at the end of WW1. The original location was on Bank Street.

The elder Goodwin is perhaps best remembered as a Mayor of Ottawa. With obvious pride, Goodwin says his dad played a pivotal role in the creation of Ottawa’s Greenbelt (protected land meant to safeguard against urban sprawl).

“He was the Father of the Greenbelt,” claims Goodwin. Mayor Goodwin died suddenly at age 53 from a heart attack. He had served less than a year in office.

Audrey says that traumatic event turned her husband into a “health nut". He started eating healthy food and became one of Ottawa’s early bicycle commuters, each day riding 45 kilometers to and from work. Goodwin is sure it’s kept him fit, but sharing the road with automobiles comes with risks. He was twice hit by cars and suffered broken bones.

About three years ago, Audrey demanded he stop riding because of impaired hearing in one of his ears.“I told him I would slash the tires if he continued to ride so that was the end of the bike.”

Despite his retirement, the business will live on. His son, Rodney, is now running Sparks Street Optometry.

Audrey says she and her husband plan to spend more time at their cottage, and travelling to see family in Atlantic Canada.

What does Goodwin himself have to say about his future?

Grinning, he replies that he hasn’t yet talked to Hulse and Playfair (a well-known Ottawa funeral business).