Robert Kenneth Wood, Sr., of Keene, NH, died May 31, 2009 at the grand age of 89.
He was born in Parker’s Glen, Shohola County, PA, August 14, 1919, the son of Howard Ellsworth Wood (better known as Smoky Joe Wood of the Boston Red Sox and Cleveland Indians) of Shohola, PA and Laura O’Shea Wood of Kansas City.
Bob was a New Englander most of his life. After Shohola, PA, he lived in Westville, Woodmont and Mildford, Conn.; Longmeadow, MA and finally Keene, NH. He married Constance Rice Wood of Marlboro, MA and recently celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary in March, 2009.
Bob graduated from Hopkins Grammar School, Deerfield Academy, Colgate University, and Yale University School of Public Health. His undergraduate studies at Colgate were interrupted by World War II when he served in the US Army. As a new college graduate, he started his work in the healthcare industry as a medical supply salesman. After completing his Masters in Public Health at Yale, Bob became Assistant Administrator at Springfield (MA) Hospital where he was affectionately known as “Robert K” by his employees. After three years in Springfield, he moved to Keene, NH in 1962 to become Administrator of the Elliot Community Hospital. In 1971, Bob was the last President of Elliot Community and the first President of the Cheshire Medical Center where he was being cared for before he passed away. In the late 1960's, Bob was President of the New Hampshire Hospital Association. After leaving Cheshire Medical, he was a healthcare consultant with the State of New Hampshire.
Bob and his wife Connie owned one of Keene’s landmark homes, the Wheeler-Sawyer Tavern in West Keene. The house, built in 1803 is honored with a listing on the National Registry for Historic Places. The Sawyer tavern days under the Woods saw many remarkable visitors, most notably Presidential candidates Eugene McCarthy, George McGovern, Michael Dukakis, and Richard Gephardt.
Many residents of Keene and friends will remember Bob’s tireless campaign to get his father, the famous Boston Red Sox pitcher and Cleveland Indians outfielder Smoky Joe Wood, voted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame over the last 40 years. He co-produced a videotape for the Old Timers Committee in Cooperstown which included the likes of President George H.W. Bush, former Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill, and many well-known baseball writers. When Ken Burns created his memorable film series “Baseball,” Bob was chosen as a contributor of archival photos.
Bob and family were honored last August by the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. He and his twin sister Virginia were received on the field before cameras by Red Sox president Larry Luchino on the occasion of their father’s 100th anniversary of his rookie season in 1908. Many will also remember that before the fateful 4th game of the playoff series against the Yankees in 2004, Bob threw out the first pitch that propelled the Red Sox to four straight victories and an equally sweeping four straight against the Cardinals, bringing Boston the World Championship for the first time since 1918. Such was Bob Wood’s role in breaking the long-time insufferable “curse of the Bambino.”
After retiring from the healthcare industry in the 70’s, Bob cranked up his Big 3 Sports memorabilia business where he bought, sold, and traded baseball and other sports memorabilia and evaluated sports collections all over the USA. He and wife Connie attended hundreds of auctions and antique shows mostly around the Northeast. In addition to his business activity and memberships in numerous community organizations, Bob was member of the Keene Country Club for the last 47 years. He was an avid golfer, a mean left-handed tennis player, and a natural athlete in general.
When asked what they remember most about Bob Wood, family and friends always mention his positive view of life. The glass was always more than half full for Robert K. Wood. He would strike up conversations with people from all walks of life and no one was too small or too big for Bob Wood. He always had a smile and cheerful words for anyone who crossed his path. One of his favorite sayings was “How about that sports fans!” Just give him a bowl of chocolate ice cream, some peanuts, and a beer while watching the Boston Red Sox and he was in heaven!
He leaves his beloved wife Connie, a retired clinical social worker at Monadnock Family Services of Keene, twin sister, Virginia Whitney of Wallingford, Conn., 3 children; Robert K. Wood Jr. and wife Lucy of Glen Rock, PA, Jeffrey B. Wood and wife Kate of Carmel, CA, and Durinda R. Wood of Los Angeles, CA. He also leaves 3 grandchildren; Monty, Jory and Tyler Wood. Bob was predeceased by 2 brothers; Joe Wood Jr. of Clinton, Conn. and Steve Wood of Milford, MA. At one point the three Wood brothers were noted for living with their families in three different Milfords: Steve in Milford, MA, Joe in Milford, PA and Bob in Milford, Conn.
A memorial service celebrating Bob Wood’s life and devotion to his family will be held in Keene later this summer. A smaller family service will be held in Shohola, PA where Bob will be laid to rest with his brothers, parents and grandparents.
Memorial gifts may be sent to the Cheshire Medical Foundation, c/o Cheshire Medical Center / Dartmouth Hitchcock-Keene, 580 Court Street, Keene, NH 03431 (www.cheshire-med.com).
The Foley Funeral Home, 49 Court Street, Keene, NH is in charge of the arrangements.