Never Forget Gene Goldsberry

By Melissa Brunner

This week marked 20 years since Topeka's Carlson Federal Building was attacked by a man awaiting sentencing on gun and drug charges. The man fired guns and tossed explosives. When it was over, court security officer Gene Goldsberry, a retired Kansas Highway Patrol captain, was dead. The perpetrator also took his own life.

Our story on the anniversary featured a comment that Goldsberry's step-daughter, Brenda Hall, said in an interview with 13 News a week after the attacks. She and her mother agreed that God had decided it was Goldsberry's time to go. Brenda added that, if he had survived and someone else had died instead, he would have had a difficult time accepting it.

Brenda sent us an email this week, wanting to give us a picture of the man who was killed that day in 1993. She considered him her dad. They shared the same birthday. Below are some of the other thoughts she expressed - with her permission, I share them with you:

"He signed  my report cards. He bought me a tool for my toolbox every Christmas - and taught me how to use it.

He tried (bless him) to teach me to fly the summer I graduated from Seaman High School. I never got past the white-knuckle stage.

 He kept  my old cars running. He always walked out to my car with me when I was leaving after visiting my folks, and would look at my car tires and ask when I had last checked the oil. (When I left the house for the first time after his death, and realized he wouldn't be walking out with me, asking about my oil levels, and telling me to call when I got home, it brought tears to me eyes.)

He worked very hard to help the contractor rebuild our home (where I now live) after it was nearly destroyed by a tornado in May, 1974.

He picked me up in his patrol car after I was involved in a car wreck during college, took me to lunch and offered to call Mom with the news.

He freely helped his neighbors and was the most selfless person I've ever known.

He encouraged me in my judo classes (when I was at Washburn) and even taught  me a lot of the self-defense tricks that he taught to KHP recruits at the training center in Salina.

Gene was a committed Christian. That gives me huge comfort, and I look forward to seeing him and Mom when I get to Heaven."

Brenda ended her note with a simple explanation of why she wanted us to know these things about Gene Goldsberry: "I hope he won't be forgotten," she ended her email.

So often, when a horrific act of violence occurs, we spend a lot of time talking about the perpetrator. Their names, their histories, their motives, are repeated an analyzed ad nauseum; their images shown repeatedly as the incident is rehashed. We know the name Charles Manson, but how many of his victims can you name? You might recognize James Holmes, but do you remember anyone who died in the Aurora, Colorado movie theatre? Do Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold ring a bell? Now tell me who died at Columbine High School?

Yes, it is the nature of media coverage. So in this blog, in this space, at this time, I invite you never forget Gene Goldsberry, the man who died Aug. 5, 1993, serving and protecting at Topeka's Frank Carlson Federal Building. The man who flew helicopters, protected governors and kept the peace as a member of the Kansas Highway Patrol.

The man who Brenda was proud to call, "Dad."


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