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Goss family matriarch remembered

By TIFFANY REPECKI - | Apr 5, 2024

Longtime Sanibel residents Mary “Mariel” Laughlin Robinson Goss and Porter Goss. PROVIDED

Longtime Sanibel residents Mary “Mariel” Laughlin Robinson Goss and Porter Goss. PROVIDED

Mary “Mariel” Laughlin Robinson Goss, who left a legacy on Sanibel where her husband, Porter, was instrumental in the city’s incorporation, passed away on March 25, surrounded by family.

She was 83.

“The first of her many contributions to Sanibel arose when the roads became too dangerous for children to ride bicycles. She rallied her friends and worked tirelessly to raise support for a bike path,” her family shared. “Her determination led to the construction of a shared use path that is known worldwide for its beauty, is enjoyed by thousands each year and helps define the Sanibel community.”

Described as a woman of strong faith and character, she was born in Sewickley, Pennsylvania, to Mary and William Robinson Jr. Goss attended St. Timothy’s School in Stevenson, Maryland, and studied at Briarcliff College in New York.

She met her husband, Porter Goss, on Fishers Island, New York, and they were married in 1962. They began their lives together in McLean, Virginian, and then moved to London, where they lived for a number of years with their four children, two dogs and cat. In 1970, the couple moved to Sanibel with their young family and quickly becoming immersed in the community.

A small business owner who had served as a U.S. Army Intelligence officer, Porter Goss co-founded the Sanibel Island-Reporter, a sister paper of the Cape Coral Breeze, supported the city’s incorporation and served as the new municipality’s first mayor in 1974. He was appointed to the Lee County Board of County Commissioners in 1983 and ran for Congress in 1988, where he served as a member of the U.S House of Representatives for nearly 16 years.

He served as director of the Central Intelligence Agency from 2004-2006.

The couple’s son, Chauncey, who grew up on Sanibel, later became a Sanibel City Council member and currently serves as the chair of the South Florida Water Management District.

Mariel Goss is remembered for service to her community, her philanthropy, her talents and her spiritual nature.

She had an artist’s eye for beauty, and after raising her children on the island and splitting time in Washington, D.C., she fulfilled her vision of creating an organic farm and raising sheep and hens.

“An avid gardener with a remarkable talent for creating a comfortable home, she tended Retreat Farm in Rapidan, Virginia, as a place of respite that provided her family and friends many happy memories,” her family shared. “A wonderful cook, she was known for her shepherd’s pie, sea grape jelly and the delicious raspberry pepper jam she sold in her farm market.”

Although her husband was the public figure in their marriage, Goss worked behind the scenes as a pillar of support to her family and friends and was always guided by her strong moral compass.

“Her caring and generous spirit were most evident to her family in times of sickness when she was quick to step up, take charge and offer prayer, vitamins — lots of vitamins — bandages or chicken soup,” her family shared.

A woman of unwavering faith, Goss was instrumental in planting and growing churches and in helping to spread God’s Word. She was always a champion of the underdog, and her quiet philanthropy made a meaningful impact on the communities in which she lived.

“She served on many boards and loved organizations that encouraged, educated and lifted people, as well as those that stewarded and protected the natural environment,” her family shared. “She was feted in 2021 by the Pace Center for Girls in Fort Myers — an organization for which she had tremendous regard — as a ‘Grand Dame,’ and although not fancy, the sobriquet fit her well.”

Goss is survived by her husband; daughter, Leslie (Sam Gruner); sons, Chauncey (Allison), Mason (Janie) and Gerrit (Tessa); sister, Elise Browne (Pierce); and 13 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren, who lovingly know her as “Ganny.”

“Mariel drew great joy from her family, and while Porter was the true love of her life, her two Goldendoodles — Rhubarb and Milou — were not far behind,” her family shared.

A celebration of life service will be held in the spring in Orange, Virginia, with an interment at a later date on Fishers Island, New York.

In lieu of flowers, contributions to one’s favorite charity in her memory would be appreciated.