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Woody's Career of Service

Woody devoted his professional career to helping special needs children and adults. He had realized his life's calling by the time he was in eighth grade, when he volunteered at a local recreation center to help handicapped and needy children.

In Amherst Woody volunteered with play groups of children whose mothers had been battered and also with a single-parent support group, both affiliated with the family center. Woody was in Germany when the Berlin Wall came down. He lived in Taiwan, where he tutored children in English.

In the mid 1990s Woody worked for Almadan Inc., a small human service agency in Amherst that provides care to mentally ill and developmentally disabled adults. Many of Woody's clients had severe cases of autism. Director Martin More described Woody as "a very good employee and a very caring guy."

More recently, Woody tutored and served as a hall monitor at a Fall Mountain Regioinal Hight School in Langdon, N.H., and Keene High School.

At the time of his death, Woody was living in Bellows Falls, Vt. and working as a counselor to teen-age foster children for one of the dozen mental health programs of the Northeastern Family Institute, a nonprofit organization in Springfield, VT.

Woody's attitude of service extended beyond his professional life to his friends and family. His close friend Mary Rives describes him:

He always tried to see how he could be of service to families.
Whether doing nitty-gritty grunt work like stacking wood, or
giving feet or shoulder massages, or counseling teens, or mediating
conflict, helping people peacefully negotiate this troubled world.

A letter by Dawn Marie DeCell gave a day-in-the-life picture of the kind of person Woody was:

I run a used clothing ministry from my home here in Spring-field, and when
I ended up with over 30 boxes of clothing left, sitting in my tiny living
room, that no one could use, Woody volunteered to take about 20 of these
boxes to a church in Brattleboro for me, where they have an
open-to-the-public clothing ministry. He packed his little car full with
these boxes, only to find out when he reached the church that they just did
not have the space for these clothes.

Woody then took all the clothes to the Salvation Army in Keene, N.H., where
he was then told that they would take the clothes but that they could not be
in boxes. So Woody went and bought garbage bags, transferred all the
clothing into the bags, and then carried them into the store. All to help me

I had neck surgery two weeks ago and have not been able to drive as a
result, and twice last week, while visiting with my son Justin, Woody went
to the middle school to pick up my son Gregory from basketball practice, as
my husband did not get home from work on time to do so.

Last Tuesday evening Woody, who was hired to work only with my son Justin,
took all three of my children to the movies, as he thought it would be nice
for my husband and me to have a little break.

This past fall Woody went apple picking with my family at an orchard where
he had previously worked. He stayed for two more hours with my son Justin
after the rest of us left because Justin was bound and determined to catch a
little brown rabbit that was running around loose.

This was a man with patience. Trust me, I don't know many others who would
have had the patience to hang out with an 8-year-old boy for this long,
trying to catch a bunny, that he would just have to turn around and let go

Woody was a wonderful man that many will miss dearly, especially the little
boys in Springfield that spent time with Woody one on one, like my son

In the early 90s, Woody spent more than a year taking care of his maternal grandmother, Violet Edson, who has advanced Alzheimer's disease. He was a frequent visitor to her nursing home. When he visited her, he would also visit other people on her floor. He had visited her the Friday before he died, as part of his normal routine.