Booth led boldly with his big bass drum --
(Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?)
The Saints smiled gravely and they said: "He's come."
From "General Booth Enters Into Heaven," by Vachel Lindsay
Few images of American life are more familiar during the Christmas season than the man or woman in a dark, military-style uniform standing beside a red kettle at a mall entrance or a grocery store front door insistently ringing a bell and unobtrusively soliciting donations for the poor and underprivileged.
The symbols of the Salvation Army -- the iron kettle and bell, the sober, crimson-trimmed uniform and the red-shield logo -- are almost as recognizable as those of Coca-Cola and McDonald's. Not nearly so well known is the organization itself as an international movement and a way of life for more than a million "officers," "soldiers" and "adherents" in 107 countries.
Bowie resident Bill Goodliff certainly knew the Salvation Army -- "from the inside out," his wife, Teresa Goodliff, remarked.
Like many Salvationists, he was born into a Salvation Army family, as was his wife. Except for a few years toward the end of his life when the Goodliffs sort of drifted away -- "took a sabbatical" is the way Teresa Goodliff put it -- the the organization was his life, and the brass-band music that is an integral part of the movement was his love.
Goodliff, 59, was "promoted to Glory," as the Salvationists would say, Aug. 13 at Washington Hospital Center. The cause of death was an exceedingly rare type of tumor.
For years, the small living room of the Goodliff home has been the "Salvation Army Room"; now it's something of a memorial to Goodliff himself. It's festooned with photos of the longtime tuba player in his red-tunic band uniform, posters from World Wars I and II, dolls, miniature tin (Salvation Army) soldiers, band-music CDs and other memorabilia that Teresa Goodliff has collected over the years.
On the wall above the couch is a black-and-white photo of the white-bearded Salvation Army founder, the remarkable William Booth. A former Methodist minister, Booth was preaching to crowds on the streets of London's East End in the 1860s when he realized that his mission in life must be to bring the Christian gospel not to the comfortable but to the poor and wretched of the Earth.
The fiery preacher founded the Christian Mission and, as General Booth, adapted the structure and panoply of the military to what he considered spiritual warfare -- spreading the gospel and ministering to those in need. The Christian Mission changed its name to the Salvation Army in 1878; the focus of the movement has changed little since.
Goodliff, a big man -- friends recalled him as loud, good-natured and outgoing -- was born in Niagara Falls, N.Y., in 1946. When he was 9, his parents decided to become officers, the Salvation Army equivalent of a minister or church administrator. While they attended training school in New York City for two years, he lived with an aunt, also a Salvationist.
Attending services and youth activities regularly at "the corps" (the Salvation Army congregation), participating in summer music camps and learning to play band music, he was enfolded early into a Salvation Army way of life. Once his parents became officers, the family moved often, from one corps to another in the Northeast.
The music exerted a magical hold on Goodliff, as it does on many Salvationists. Booth himself once asked, "Why should the devil have all the best tunes?" Ever since, music has been a part of Salvation Army worshiping, street-corner evangelizing and spirit-lifting at hospitals and nursing homes.
"Music seemed to be a glue that held us together and kept us going," said Marine Master Sgt. Stephen Bulla, an old friend of Goodliff's and fellow band member.
Goodliff gravitated toward the tuba and from an early age was a talented player, for the Salvation Army and in school. "He loved his horn so much that when he was a teenager he'd be in uniform, standing on a street corner playing, and people would spit on him; friends would tease him," Teresa Goodliff said. "But he was a strong guy. He was proud."
Goodliff went to college for a couple of years, joined the other Army (which included two tours of duty in Vietnam) and then gravitated back to the Northeast and his life as a Salvation Army musician.
It was Bulla -- chief arranger for the U.S. Marine Band ("The President's Own") when he's not directing Salvation Army bands -- who helped lure Goodliff to the Washington area in 1986. He was looking for a top-notch tuba player for the Salvation Army's prestigious National Capital Band.
With the band, Goodliff toured Scandinavia, Australia, New Zealand and other countries. He marched through Buckingham Palace, made several recordings and was proud to be named first chair in the early 1990s.
Since band participation is purely voluntary, part of a Salvationist's mission, Goodliff made a living as an accountant, most recently for a broadcast company, but it was the music that engaged him. As Teresa Goodliff put it, laughing, "It was his horn, ESPN and me."
She and her husband ended their "sabbatical" about a year before his death. Becoming a part of the Arlington corps -- one of 10 in the area -- they were welcomed back, just as they knew they would be. They were family, and they had come home.