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Adventurer known as 'Real-life Indiana Jones' dies at 88

May 22, 2013|By Tiffany Kelly
  • Explorer John Goddard made a list of tasks he wanted to accomplish, including climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro.
Explorer John Goddard made a list of tasks he wanted to accomplish, including… (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 died 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.

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 an 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 and 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.”

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