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Kenneth Wood

  • "To the Woods family my family's prayers are with you may..."
    - marilyn green
  • "Davidson, and all of us who live there still spiritually or..."
    - Hope Nicholls
  • "Sorry for your loss and may you be comforted by God's Word..."
    - km
  • "A true Wood, never say someone is not equal."
    - Terry Wood

Kenneth Neal Wood DAVIDSON - Kenneth Neal Wood, 80, died Saturday, December 28, 2013, after a long illness. He was a farm boy who grew up to be a minister, then turned to education before becoming director of experiential learning at Davidson College. In his last years he was a gardener and abiding friend of nature. In one of his early sermons, he celebrated the values of freedom, adventure, and experience, which were abiding themes through his life. "Late Wednesday afternoon," he wrote in 1963, "I parked the car in front of the manse, stepped out, and was greeted by the excited little voice of my two-and-a-half-year-old daughter: 'Hi Daddy, look where I am!' "The voice was coming from ... high up somewhere. I looked in all the upstairs windows, and at the same instant the panic button was pressed. I spotted her fully twenty feet up a tree in the front of our house. "A young eaglet on its first flight out of the nest couldn't have been more proud and thrilled and excited than my little daughter beaming down at me from her perch.... "Pity the adult that cannot look upon a child straining to reach a perch far above what the adult world considers safe and not envy the reckless courage and the sense of victory that belongs to the young climber.... Pity the adult without an inner tree to climb." In 1963 he participated in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and two years later was arrested with others, including the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, on the Selma-to-Montgomery, Alabama, March. The same year he organized his church to work against inequality. He and other community leaders convinced Saul Alinsky to bring his Industrial Areas Foundation to organize Buffalo's impoverished eastside. Much of the rest of his professional life was spent working for freedom and justice. Ken Wood was born in Buffalo, N.Y., and grew up on farms at Evans Center and Sturgeon Point, on or near the shores of Lake Erie. After a year traveling out West, he studied at Westminster College in New Wilmington, Pa., where he met Sandra Jean Colman, his wife, love, and life-long companion. He studied theology and counseling at Princeton Theological Seminary and was ordained in the Presbyterian Church. He was founding pastor of Northway United Presbyterian Church in Williamsport, Pa., then associate pastor at United Presbyterian Church in Orchard Park, N.Y., and in 1968 became director of Lansing, Michigan, Area United Ministries. He became a fellow with the National Program for Educational Leadership at Ohio State University. In 1974 he moved to Davidson College, where he counseled students about the lives and work they envisioned for themselves and helped them gain real-world experiences to explore their dreams and build competencies. During his time at Davidson he volunteered for Habitat for Humanity. He won the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award at Davidson College. He retired from Davidson in 1995. He spent his remaining years tending bees in his backyard, negotiating garden rights with woodchucks and deer, tramping Western North Carolina mountains in search of old-growth forests, reading, listening to music, attending to birds, visiting with family. He could watch a spider build its web for an entire morning and consider it time well spent. He was preceded in death by parents, Christian Witmer Wood and Bessie Emily Wertman Wood; sister Janice Wood Tonder; and son Scot Kenneth Wood. He is survived by his wife of fifty-eight years, Sandra; children, John Colman Wood and wife, Carol Young Wood, of Asheville, N.C.; Melinda Wood and husband, Irvin Wardlow, and daughter, Rosa, of Decatur, Ga.; Peter Neal Wood and wife, Patricia Sierra, and sons, Scot Salomon and Esteban Nathaniel, of Coral Gables, Fla. He is also survived by sister, Nancy Wood Mackenburg and partner Ron Smalt of Orchard Park, N.Y.; brother-in-law, sister Jan's husband, Robert Tonder of McCaysville, Ga.; brothers-in-law, wife Sauni's brothers, George Colman of Oaxaca, Mexico; Samuel Colman of Binghamton, N.Y.; Robert Colman of Montpelier, Vt.; and David Colman of Middlebury, Vt.; along with many loving nieces and nephews. "Education," he once wrote, "...should function to free people and thus enable us to act toward the solution of our personal and corporate problems. At times I am discouraged by the complexity and intractability of the problems. But I find within myself, my family, and in youth, abundant cause to hope and to work for both a better present and a better future." Ken Wood spent his life climbing such trees. A celebration of Ken Wood's life will be 2 p.m. Saturday, January 11, 2014, at the Davidson Friends Meetinghouse on South Street. Raymer-Kepner Funeral Home and Cremation Services is assisting the family. Friends may offer condolences to the family at

Published in Charlotte Observer on Dec. 29, 2013
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