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It was an event of laughter as well as tears as old memories were revealed








(October 25, 1925 - March 13, 2011)


Jean Wood, 85, a long-time resident of Port Washington , NY , died on March 13, 2011, in Chelmsford , MA . Wood died peacefully in her sleep after a long illness and nursing home care for the last three years. Her eldest daughter was at her side. Wood devoted her life and talents to serving others in her local communities and churches here on Long Island, at her summer home in Kismet, Fire Island, and while living in a winter home on Sanibel Island, Florida.

Born and raised in Indiana , Pennsylvania , Wood attended Pratt Institute in Brooklyn , graduating in 1946 with honors in Industrial Design, and later receiving a liberal arts degree from Empire State College. She worked as a designer at two NYC firms and the U.S. NAVY, later designing numerous homes and substitute teaching public school art and shop classes while she raised her six children. The wife of WWII veteran and Newsday reporter/editor Frank Wood, Jean was voted Mrs. New York State in 1963. She designed the “Mrs. America Dream Home” for the talent portion of the contest.

During the 1970s, Wood, a passionate and vocal environmentalist, wrote school science/ecology filmstrips distributed by Nassau BOCES, widely promoted and spoke on recycling and nature conservation, and served on the “Section 208” committee meetings concerning clean water / water conservation on Long Island . In the late 70s she promoted residential solar energy nationwide while working as Grumman Energy System’s Deputy Director of Public Affairs.

An accomplished writer, Wood wrote reviews for Newsday as its Children’s Book Editor during the 1970s and created public relations materials for community-based charities including the YMCA and the Fire Island Lighthouse Preservation Society. In 2000, she self-published a book of poetry, A Voice for the Caregiver, written while caring for her husband, who died of Alzheimer’s Disease in 1994.

In addition to serving Port Washington’s Community Action Council to advocate fair housing in the 1960s, Wood actively supported many other charities with both her time and community organizing / PR talents over the years: the Fresh Air Fund--hosting children at her summer home for many years; continually raising funds for Christian world missions projects; volunteering with the Harry Chapin Food Bank; and even swinging a hammer in a few Habitat for Humanity “Women Build” projects.

Consumed with charitable work even well into her 70s, Wood founded “12 Baskets” on Sanibel Island, where a large core of volunteers rescued leftover food from restaurants and resorts and delivered it to Ft. Myers ’ soup kitchens. While summering in Kismet, Fire Island, where there was no local church, Wood offered a summer Sunday school program on her back deck each week, teaching biblical lessons and crafts to local children of all ages. Her “church” began each Sunday when she gathered the students around her 1890s pump organ, playing and leading them in singing “Morning Has Broken” (her favorite hymn) or another favorite, “Jesus Loves Me.” For more than 10 years as a retiree, she also taught children at the weekly community outreach “LOGOS” program at Sanibel Community Church in Florida .

Wood’s artistic talent and her gift for hospitality were lent to many charities who auctioned off her custom watercolor paintings of people’s homes and her weekend “bed and breakfast” getaways at her Kismet and Sanibel Island homes. Family meals and even meals with guests always began with a prayer of grace, in which she never failed to say, “Lord, help us to remember those who don’t have enough to eat.”

It was not uncommon for Wood, who believed in living out the Gospel of Jesus Christ, to take on a short-term house guest who had nowhere else to live. She also frequently opened her home to staff members of ministries like Jews for Jesus, or Campus Crusade for Christ, offering young families rest and a free seaside vacation. Wood often incorporated a nature walk into visits by families or friends, pointing out flowers, trees, insects and animals and teaching others about them.

Wood possessed a beautiful soprano voice and also played piano, violin, clarinet and harp. She sang in many Port Singers’ musical shows and operettas during the 60s, was very active in the local Music Club, and was often featured as a soloist in both her NY and FL church choirs well into her 70s.

In her later, still very active years, Wood focused on the art form of calligraphy, joining a scribes group in southwest Florida , designing banners for her church and creating framed quotes, mainly from the Bible. She often liked to remark, “People ask me, ‘Jean, how do you do all the things you do?’ and I tell them, ‘I don’t do these things alone. God is the one who helps me do everything.” She also liked to share her favorite Bible verse, Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and He will direct your path.”

Wood is survived by her six children: Christopher Wood ( Arlington , MA ); Pamela Wood Clare and husband Frank ( Bedford , MA ); Jonathan Wood and wife Susan ( Roxbury , NY ); Samuel Wood and wife Amy (Kismet, NY); Fred Wood and wife Patty ( Medford , NY ); and Wendy Wood-Kaler and husband Wayne ( Sayville , NY ); she is also survived by 14 grandchildren. Her artistic and musical talents live on in all of them.

A public memorial service for Jean Wood was held on Saturday, May 7, at 1 pm, at Gospel Community Church , 138 Greeley Ave. , Sayville , NY . In lieu of flowers, “In Memory” donations can be sent to Habitat for Humanity.  A memorial page for Jean Wood can be found on Facebook.


THE SERVICE                                                         
by Jeannie Lieberman


It was a lovely service featuring participation of the whole family. her children and grandchildren: Ryan Vahey (youngest daughter Wendy Wood-Kaler’s son) represented the musical side of the family with a trumpet call to worship followed by his sister Delia’s “Morning Has Broken”. Julia Wood offered an appropriate Scripture reading “Her Children rise up and praise her” (Proverbs 31.28).

Chris Wood, the oldest son therefore having more memories than the rest delivered the longest speech. Pamela Wood Clare, Jean’s oldest daughter  was the designated caregiver described her last days and was with her at the end in Massachusetts .

Because of the strong faith of the family they were all were consoled that she would now be with her beloved husband “Fir” (Frank) n “eternal life”. Jonathan Wood, the next son,  who wow-ed us as a Falconer at a tribute to Jean a few years ago, spoke as did Pam’s daughter, Victoria Jean Clare, offered the touching “On Eagles Wings”.

After it was Sam’s turn (illustrating the unique oratory skills inherited from both parents) came his closest younger brother Fred. The youngest of six siblings, Wendy Wood-Kafer was the last to speak.


Poignant and amusing anecdotes from the many in attendance who were friends of the family were followed by a very responsive meet and mingle as refreshments were served.


I would like to say that was a moving and very informative occasion - wow - wish we all knew more about Jean when she was among us in Kismet!  But then we might have felt intimidated. Kismet was well represented as far as I and Amy could see: Warren, Rose & Lee Lem, Mike Fiore, Gary Leone, the Romanzis, the Chiros, Rose  & Anthony, Marsha & Arthur, the McKeehans, Gregg Weisser, Bradlee, Arlene & Bob Freiberg, Emmie & Jim Ryan, Artie Goldstein, Ann Littlejohn, the Lambies, Larry & Joyce, the Sverdliks, The Phelans, old friend O.T. Wells, Peter Manion & Wife, Tom Licari, Lauren & Steve Dennis, Dominic, Karen and Colleen Kelley. We apologize for any oversight.  Amy was visibly moved, flanked by son Sam, Gracie and Mallory. It was an event of laughter as much as tears.



Pictures of Jean with son Sammy



First, thanks so much to all for coming today, but also for your kind words about my mother.  Many people knew her, many more knew of her.  It’s so hard to try to sum up an incredible life like my Moms.  But here goes:


My mother was a Female Forest Gump and here is an assortment of things she did and lives she touched.  There are many other things we will never know about.


I have gone through a lot of her files and memoirs and this is what I found.  She saved a note from my kindergarten teacher.  I was sent home early from school, it read: Sam says his stomach hurts, PS his pants are wet.


I once had my Mom for a substitute teacher in Art class when I was 9 or 10 years old.  She came over to look at what I was working on and said “ Sam, maybe you should add more color to this”.  I was like Am I in a parallel universe where my mother is my teacher?  The kid next to me said Are you sure that’s your mother?


I found a file that just said PEACE.  It was a journal of my Moms protest activities during the Vietnam War.  She marched on Washington , she lay down in the street in front of the United Nations and she helped mothers who had lost their sons in the war.  40 years old with 6 kids at home, she takes a bus with veterans and Hippies, to Washington for what she believed in.  The last thing in the file was a letter to my Mom from Bobby Kennedy (a few months before he was killed).  She had written to him thanking him for his opinion and article against nuclear war.  This file was one little ½” segment of her life.  More then once I saw her send letters to our presidents.  I was thinking, who does that?  How does that work?  Will she get an answer?


Garbage to Energy plants, solar energy, recycling, solar power, green building, echo tourism…she just didn’t know about this stuff, and she was an authority on it.  Not 5 years ago, 35 years ago. She traveled the country when she worked for Grumman teaching people about alternative energy.  I’ve read through these files that are just as relevant today as they were years ago.  She fell in with a group of professors and engineers who my father called “ Solar Freaks”.  This was another segment of her life.  She attached a devise to our clothes dryer that was supposed to retain heat and it ended up steam blasting all the paint off the walls and ceiling of our laundry room!  She rigged up something to our oil burner chimney to save energy, which didn’t work right, and I’m sure ended up pumping carbon monoxide into our house.


Cooking:  My mom was an awesome cook and I do miss her cooking.  She kept us all thin by providing just enough portions to go around.  And she made it go a long way.  The 1st time I saw a full size pork chop at The Kismet Inn, I didn’t know what it was!  She was always trying to do a lot of things at the same time so she frequently burned things.  To this day I enjoy burnt cookies more then regular ones.  My father would look at the food and say: “burned beyond recognition”.  She taught us that the end of the loaf of bread taste the same as the middle slices and to appreciate that you had enough to eat.  She had a garden at Fire Island , where when she grew carrots the ground water table was so high they ended up the shape of beer cans.  She once tried cooking and eating the reeds or phragmities that grow on Fire Island , saying she discovered they were similar to watercress…needless to say nobody tried that again.  She always concentrated on meeting new people and inviting them to dinner and so something you really weren’t looking forward to would become a fascinating experience.  At her Sunday dinner table you might find yourself seated next to a collage professor or an ex convict. She once introduced us to a man from Cameroon who was raising funds to drill a well to provide water to a school there.  She stopped by on a weekend once and told me she was hosting Commander Cody, the rock band overnight at her house.  The leader was a talented artist and so they hit it off.  Years later I met him after a concert for a meet and great.  He remembered my mother and what a great time they had on Fire Island .  He gave me a poster of a painting he had done for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame of Jimi Hendrix.  He inscribed a nice note to her on it.  Several days later I was all excited to take it to her at her Assisted Living Place and tell her the story.  I unfurled the poster and said lets hang it up.  She looked at it and said, “ I don’t think they allow things like that here”.
Medical:  She would take us to get our shots at the proper time to a doctor, but otherwise tried to attend to any of our medical needs at home.  She got all her advice from the Dr. Spock book in our kitchen drawer, which I think Jon and I thought was written by Leonard Nimoy from Star Trek. We once looked through a house under construction with my parents (where we shouldn’t have been) and Wendy fell 1-½ stories into the basement.  My mother dusted her off and then kept an eye on her for the rest of the day. NO medical attention needed.  I’m not so sure Wendy ever fully recovered from that.

Building:  My parents built their 1st house in Port Washington themselves, pouring concrete and laying cinder block.  After arguing about something one day, she said to herself:  I must be out of my mind, I’m building a house with someone I am not ever married to!  She told me she really wanted a career and wasn’t interested in marriage but my father was so funny she couldn’t resist him.  She taught our family how to build a house; our family built a house together in the Catskills over years on holidays and vacations.  With no power tools, who gets to do something like that as a family?  She was as familiar with tools, construction details and the lumberyard as any contractor.  It was so exciting to see the model of our 2nd Fire Island house that would be built when I was 7 years old.  That project is what got me into building.  As a designer her good taste is what helps me today, picking out fixtures and colors for my customers.  My parents scrimped and saved their whole lives to invest in real estate, build furniture, build houses and maintain them.  They always located the best spots:  Port Washington, Fire Island, the Catskills and Sanibel Island .  I once saw my mother draw a complete set of plans for a house in 2 ½ hours based on the size of an existing footprint.  I found a letter from my mother to the builder George Helm who was going to construct our A Frame house.  She had all kinds of suggestions on how to reduce the price and save money.  The type of letter I as a builder would NOT like to get.  I recently found out that she worked for Harley Earl, the legendary auto designer.  She was a big fan of Mia Lin, the architect for the Vietnam War Memorial.  When Mia visited my friend at Fire Island he brought her over to meet my Mom and she enjoyed showing Mia some of her own work.

Here are some basic things:  She was the most generous, unselfish person in the world.  She never asked for or wanted any recognition for things she had done.  If she was blatantly forgotten for some kind of public recognition, she didn’t care.  She taught us to perform thankless tasks for people because they were just that, thankless.  She survived being my father’s caregiver for 10 years and never once complained about it.  How many of us can do these things?  She taught us to give back, to donate your time to good causes, to be thankful for everything from a blue sky day to a good serve on the tennis court and she was the real deal.  She didn’t just say she was going to do things, she made them happen!  Nothing was out of the realm of what she could accomplish.   In one of her later years on Sanibel Island during the winter she came up with an idea that you could get donations of medicine, pills and prescriptions left over from people who were cured or had passed away and send it from her church to poor countries.  She arranged to have retired doctors examine and sign off on these drugs, re-pack them and ship them.  Sounds simple, well as sometimes happens she would get a group together with an idea and then move on to the next one.  I was at her house on Fire Island when she was away and a message came in on the answering machine: “ Jean it’s so and so and we were raided by the sheriff’s office today and told we would be arrested if we continued shipping drugs out of the country.”  When my Mom got back I was like did you get that message?  She said it was a good idea but, what ever. Several times she bought migrant farm workers, and their children to Fire Island .  Hosting them and relishing in the fact that they were seeing the Atlantic Ocean for the first time.  These people weren’t from a foreign country, they were from Long Island .

Environment:  She was an environmentalist her whole life.  She would be SO upset by the oil spills and the radio active disasters that are taking place today.  She could rattle off the names of all the plant life on Long Island, Fire Island and Sanibel Island .  Even if you weren’t sure of what she was telling you were true, you didn’t really have a way of checking it.  She ran for sewer commissioner because of the environment not because she was into politics.

4th of July Parade:  She created it, organized it and ran it for 40 years!  She did it by herself.  I’ve run it for 5 years with help from Grace, Mal and others and it’s incredibly stressful, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.  The first year I took it over she actually apologized to me for having to do it. It is a major legacy of hers, and as I have said before, I’ll put that little parade up against any in the nation.  It is another great event for children and she respected children, treating them as her own and recognizing the potential in them.

She contributed her time and talent to more charities and organizations then you could imagine and I appreciate the fact that many of the people in this room today are here because they worked with her in these groups.

Again, I want to thank everyone for coming today.  I want to thank my extended family that put in a lot of time taking care of my Mom in the last few years.  Among all these great things that my Mom did, I’ll never forget that she taught us that it doesn’t matter where someone comes from or the color of their skin.


Thanks Mom