By Ron Hayes
DELRAY BEACH — He had a name that inspires awe, and accomplishments to match, but Godfrey Rockefeller wore both lightly.
“He was very much a gentlemen, with a wonderful reaching out to people from all stations of life,” says his daughter-in-law, Regina Rockefeller. “He treated everyone the same, whether the person parking a car or the president. He was respectful of everyone in life.”
The executive director of the World Wildlife Fund from 1972 to 1978 and a resident of Delray Beach since 1979, Mr. Rockefeller died unexpectedly Jan. 22 at the St. Andrew's Club. He was 85.
A graduate of Phillips Academy Andover and Yale College, Mr. Rockefeller served in the U.S. Marine Corps during both World War II and the Korean Conflict, then went on to serve as president and chairman of the Helicopter Association of America.
He was also president of Acosta Groves, a family citrus business in Mims.
In addition to his service as executive director, Mr. Rockefeller served as a World Wildlife board member from 1978 to 1985 and council member from 1984 to 1993.
He was president of both the Prouts Neck Country Club in Maine and the Hillsboro Club in Pompano Beach, but golf was not a passion.
“He wasn’t a golfer or a tennis player,” his daughter-in-law said, “but an avid reader and sailor.”
Once a year, however, Mr. Rockefeller played tennis, in a grudge match with three friends, each of whom had graduated from a different college or university.
“He used to joke that the match was won or lost the night before, depending on how much he could get his opponents to drink,” she recalled.
In November, Mr. Rockefeller attended the first wedding of a grandchild when Lisa Rockefeller married Edward Sebelius of Boston, Mass.
“We were very glad to have had that time together,” his daughter-in-law said.
Mr. Rockefeller’s wife of 53 years, Margaret Kuhn Rockefeller, died last year.
In addition to his daughter-in-law, he is survived by a sister, Marion R. Stone, of Greenwich, Conn.; his children, Godfrey A. Rockefeller Jr., of Lexington, Mass.; Judith S Rockefeller, of Cape Elizabeth, Maine; Caroline R. Spencer, of Willow Creek, Mont., and Parker B. Rockefeller of Annapolis, Md.; and 10 grandchildren.
A memorial service was held at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Delray Beach on Jan. 30.
The family asks that donations be made to the St. Paul’s South Florida Haiti Project, 188 S. Swinton Ave., Delray Beach, FL 33444, or the Living Classrooms Foundation, 802 S. Caroline St., Baltimore, MD 21231.