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Woody Memorial Statement - 12/8/01

The following statement was delivered by long-time friend of Woody Steven Monroe Tomczak at the memorial service at the Lee Memorial United Methodist Church in Norwich, Connecticut on December 8.

My name is Stephen Monroe Tomczak - more commonly known as Zak to my friends. It is what Woody always called me, for the nearly 20 years we knew one another. I first met him when we attended Southern Connecticut State University in the early 1980s, and remained close since that time. I have always considered Woody to be one of my three best friends in the entire world.

He was a groomsman in my wedding this past August. He had a wonderful time, and as usual, was concerned about how others were enjoying the event. He made sure to encourage my wife's 93 year old grandmother - to get up out of her wheelchair and dance. This sort of extremely considerate and caring behavior was so typical of the kindness that my friend showed to others, that at the time I did not really take note of it. Mary Ellen's grandmother herself passed away shortly after the wedding, so it was her last dance. I doubt it was Woody's, however, because as you know, he loved to dance.

Woody was always very concerned and caring toward his friends, to be sure, but he also cared deeply about larger social issues, a concern that he and I shared. He was horrified by injustice, and the mal-treatment of vulnerable people. He truly cared for others who were suffering, whether he knew them or not.

Woody loved nature, as many of you know. My personal memory of this concerned a time when he encouraged me to go hiking in West Rock park in New Haven. There was a sheer rock face that he wished to climb, and he wanted me to do it with him. Well I am quite afraid of heights, and also, um, not the most athletically inclined person.

But Woody encouraged me, he said "you can do it Zak." He coaxed me up, I made it halfway up the rock face, and them wanted to go back. "I can't do it Woody." I said. He encouraged me to keep going - "You CAN do it Zak." And you know what - I did make it up that rock face, and I felt so proud that I actually could do. This was the type of person Woody was, he wanted the best for those he cared about, he wanted to help them transcend their limitations. And he did!

Not only did I have a great love and loyalty to Woody, and he to me, but I greatly respected and admire him. I would - and still do - try so hard to put my beliefs into practice. But, as with many of us, I was not entirely able to live in a manner consistent with my values. Woody was. He truly lived the values and beliefs he espoused - pacifism, non-materialism, concern for the environment, and most of all caring for others. This folks is a rare occurrence. I think this is something we can all aspire to, to follow Woody's example to the best of our ability, and in so doing honor his memory, and in a sense, keep our friend alive.

I will miss my dear friend deeply - this senseless event has created a void in my life and heart that will never be filled. But you know - perhaps this is a bit cliche - but although Woody may be gone in a physical sense, he will always live in the hearts and minds of those who loved him - and as you all know, there are alot of us. Together, with our love, we can keep Woody's memory alive.

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