LOS ANGELES (AP) – Blair Godbout, a veteran Associated Press photo editor whose calm demeanor, attention to detail and warm, outgoing personality made him friends with arguably everyone he met in a business in which the rush to be first is often tense and competitive, has died at age 66.
Godbout died March 19 at his rural home in Sonora, California, with his wife, Sheri Malone, at his side. The couple moved to the historic Sierra Nevada Gold Rush town after Godbout took early retirement in 2013 upon being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
Although he rarely touched a camera or computer after his diagnosis, he continued to lead a full life until recent months, his wife said, traveling with her to Africa, South America, the Amazon and across the United States during those retirement years.
“He had a wonderful life,” his wife said. “For the past eight years we did whatever we wanted to do, parties, hiking, traveling, camping.”
As recently as last fall he’d taken part in a local walk to raise money for Alzheimer’s research.
Born Nov. 7, 1954, in San Jose, California, Blair Jason Godbout would go on to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree in photojournalism from San Jose State University in 1978.
After working for various news outlets in Colorado, he returned to his native California in 1989 to join the AP’s Los Angeles bureau. He would spend the rest of his career there, editing photos from Hollywood awards shows, sports events, crime scenes and any other site of breaking news.
“I remember he had his Dolce tux, and every year we’d go to the Oscars, Golden Globes, Emmys, one after another, and he was a fixture at all those events,” Tracy Gitnick, a former AP news editor for photos who was Godbout’s boss most of those years, recently recalled.
But more than that, Gitnick said, he was also a friend to everybody he met, a valuable trait in dealing with sometimes wary news sources.
“He was able to disarm people with kindness,” Gitnick recalled, adding police officers, judges and other authority figures were always happy to take his call when he inquired about photographer access.
He also served as a mentor to younger photographers and photo editors, including Stephanie Mullen, the AP’s current director for storytelling and photography for the western United States.
“The root of Blair was just confidence and amazing news judgment,” Mullen recalled, adding, “He taught me so much about news instincts and judging the competing priorities.”
In addition to his wife, Godbout is survived by a daughter, Felicia Lied, and brothers Mark and Craig.
The family is planning a Zoom memorial for May 2.
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