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Obituary (VA): Mrs. Brinkley (Harold T. Goranson '40)

Posted on 09/10/2018

Rev. Brinkley Craft Goranson died on September 6, 2018, aged 97. She was born to Susie Brinkley Craft and William Craft in Tyner, NC, on Dec. 7, 1920, the last child of a large family, and named Mabel Brinkley Craft. One of her childhood pleasures was horseback riding at her Aunt Rosie's. She graduated at 16 from Chowan High School as salutatorian. She moved to Norfolk, where she took business courses, worked as a secretary, and met the Naval Academy midshipman at a dance who, years later, would become her husband.

She went to Washington D.C. for a civil service job as a secretary with the Veterans Administration Congressional Liaison Office. Coincidentally, she was an observer in the Capitol when Congress (with one dissenter) voted to declare war on Japan in response to the Pearl Harbor attacks, which happened on her birthday. Her future husband was on one of the ships attacked. She applied for a foreign service job, thinking she might be sent to, say, Morocco. But she was assigned to Hawaii. Upon reacquaintance--and more years and many letters later while he was at sea--she and Harold Theodore Goranson, known as "Swede," married, happily.

Navy assignments took them to Newport, RI, Annapolis; Boston; Greewich, RI; London (he served at the US Embassy and was involved in NATO beginnings); Norfolk; Silver Spring, MD; and Norfolk again, to the same Gosnold Avenue home. In 1960 Captain Goranson, returning from a Pentagon meeting, died in an airplane crash. At the time she was pregnant with their sixth child.

Mrs. Goranson is survived by five of her children, Harold Theodore Goranson (Beth Cardier) of Va. Beach; Kristin Goranson Congdon (David) of Winter Park, FL; Stephen Craft Goranson of Durham, NC; Zoe Anders Goranson (Thomas Fisher) of Va. Beach; and Jon Craft Goranson of Ringgold, GA. One child, Jonathan Anders, died in infancy in 1953. The huge magnolia tree on Bruton Lane was planted as a memorial. Her grandchildren are Jesse, Anna, Nathan, Asriel, and Avier and step-grandson Michael.

After her husband died, she moved the family to Va. Beach. She worked in the library of Virginia Wesleyan College, started taking classes, and eventually graduated with honors. Next she attended Harvard Divinity School and completed an M. Div. degree, cum laude, and was ordained a Lutheran (ELCA) minister. At the time, newly-ordained women were not assisted in obtaining church positions in Virginia, so she turned to Pennsylvania, where she was welcomed and served in churches in Ashland, Gordon, Colebrook, and Arendtsville.

She enjoyed travel, returning to Hawaii, returning to England (on a coal freighter with three kids), and visiting, among others, Greece, China, and Tanzania. She read constantly, was a member of book clubs, and wrote book reviews for this newspaper. Upon semi-retirement, she returned to Va. Beach, and continued with hospital chaplaincy and frequent substitute preaching. Some of her sermons are gathered in a book, "The Word of the Lord" (2015).

Memorial contributions could be given, as she suggested, to help the Faraja School, which serves students with disabilities in Tanzania. Checks could be made out to "First Lutheran," with "Faraja School / B. Goranson" on the bottom portion. Mailing address: First Lutheran Church, In care of Faraja School / B. Goranson, 1301 Colley Ave., Norfolk, VA 23517. For more information on this charity, see

She was a member of First Lutheran, where a service will be held at 11:00 AM, Wednesday, September 12, 2018. She will be buried beside her husband in the cemetery at the Naval Academy. H.D. Oliver Funeral Apts., Laskin Road is handling arrangements.

Online condolences may be offered to the family at

Published in The Virginian Pilot from Sept. 9 to Sept. 10, 2018