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Pack Unit employees no longer packing on the pounds

Matt Goodson and David Rice standing in front of the basketball hoop, both holding a basketball.
Pack Unit Maintenance Technician Matt Goodson, left, and Major David Rice are in good enough shape to play a fast-paced game of basketball after losing 270 pounds between them by exercising and eating right.

Photo by David Nunnelee

Pack Unit Major David Rice and unit Maintenance Technician Matt Goodson are no longer packing on the pounds. And each had good reason for finally deciding last year to begin shedding their excess pounds by exercising and eating right. For Rice, it was either do or die. For Goodson, it was impending fatherhood.

“My wife and I were about to have our first child and I wanted to see him grow up,” said Goodson who, incredibly, dropped 196 pounds in less than a year with no ill effects. “So I started exercising and eating healthier.”

My doctor looked at me and said, ‘Look, either do something or die,’” said Rice, who weighed in at 250 pounds at the time and had already suffered a heart attack. “He said, ‘Right now, you’re headed for diabetes, another heart attack, or a stroke.’”

In May, Rice, 51, weighed 75 pounds less than he did the previous year and competed with his family for the first time in the 5K Walk/Run at the Texas Round-Up event in Austin. Goodson, meanwhile, was back to 205 pounds, the same weight he carried as a high school senior in 1996. He said much of the poundage he shed was water weight.

“I’m happy right here,” Goodson said. “I don’t want to lose any more weight.”

Rice, too, is happy with his reduced weight and improved health. He was recently able to run a leg of the Special Olympic Torch Run as it passed through Navasota.

“It’s just totally different,” Rice said about his present physical condition. “I’m not tired all the time. I never thought it would make that much of a difference, but it does.”

Rice tried to lose weight once before by taking diet pills.

“I was doing it the wrong way,” he said. “This time, I did it the right way under a doctor’s guidance.”

Together with his wife, Susan, a schoolteacher in nearby Anderson, Rice began exercising and eating “calorie-counted” meals. He and Susan now include 45 minutes of physical activity -- walking, swimming, bicycling -- in their daily routines. She has lost about 80 pounds since they started their weight loss plan last May.

“We did it together,” said Rice, a 26-year TDCJ veteran. “You have to have encouragement in order to keep going. It’s just like Alcoholics Anonymous. You’ve got to have a support group.”

Goodson started his weight reduction plan in July 2006 by eating lighter meals and taking daily walks down a dirt road. He now walks or jogs 4 1/2 miles a day.

“I started out walking, and then once I got to where I could walk a good distance, I started jogging as far as I could,” he said. “Now I’ve gotten to where I jog pretty much the whole time.”

Goodson, 29, supplements his exercise with healthier foods including plenty of fruits and vegetables.

“I quit eating fried foods and started eating vegetables and more baked foods,” he said. “I’ve eaten so much chicken that I think I could grow feathers.”

Both Rice and Goodson said that without the willpower and desire to succeed, most dieters will not reach their goals.

“I think anybody can do it if they set their mind to it and commit to it,” Rice said. “It’s very difficult at times, but the difficulties are short-lived and far outweighed by the benefits.”

“I feel 10 times better,” Goodson added.


Texas correctional officer killed in 1936 recognized at memorial ceremony

Ella Mae Shiflett-Tolbert sitting in a chair near the tree planted for her father.
Ella Mae Shiflett-Tolbert of League City sits next to the live oak tree planted on the grounds of the TDCJ Sesquicentennial Plaza in Huntsville in remembrance of her father’s service to the state.

Photo by David Nunnelee

Ella Mae Shiflett-Tolbert of League City was just 17 when her father lost his life on the morning of December 8, 1936 while working as a correctional officer at what was then known as the Blue Ridge Prison Farm in Fort Bend County. George Washington Shiflett was on horseback watching over a squad of offenders working alongside a public road near Blue Ridge, a satellite work camp to the Central Unit, when the headlights from an approaching vehicle cut through a heavy fog and spooked his mount. Shiflett was thrown to the ground and fatally struck by a bullet from his own gun when it discharged. The 48-year-old correctional officer left behind a wife and nine children.

The recent discovery of the circumstances surrounding Shiflett’s accidental death in the line of duty led to the fallen prison employee being rightfully recognized for his service to the State of Texas during the Eighth Annual Fallen Officers Memorial Ceremony in Huntsville on May 18. And his daughter Ella, now 88 and the oldest of Shiflett’s three surviving children, was there to see it.

“It’s been a long, long time,” she said, her voice choked with emotion. “I’d never have thought that my daddy would have gotten the praise that he has gotten. I’m thrilled to death, and I know he would be, too.”

A granite square etched with Shiflett’s name and date of death was placed on the grounds the TDCJ Sesquicentennial Plaza following the ceremony and a live oak tree was planted as a living memorial to his sacrifice.

TDCJ now lists 41 employees who have died in the line of duty since 1882. Connally Unit Correctional Clerk Rhonda Osborne was the last agency employee lost while working to protect public safety on October 21, 2004.

At this year’s memorial service, TDCJ also remembered the sacrifice of three correctional employees and three sheriff deputies from other states who were killed in the line of duty during 2006.

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