Capt. George Phelps Woodward Jr., U.S. Navy (retired), died Tuesday, July 2, 2013, at Oak Hill Hospital in Brooksville, Fla. George was born April 23, 1935, in Philadelphia, Pa., to George P. Woodward and Laura (Hankinson) Woodward. The family moved to Roslyn, Pa., in 1946, and he joined the Navy as a seaman recruit on Oct. 23, 1953, following graduation from Abington Senior High School.
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He attended the Navy's Aerology (meteorology) school at Lakehurst, N.J.. After graduation, he was assigned duty at Naval Air Facility, Annapolis, Md., as assistant flight forecaster for the seaplanes then based there, as well as providing weather maps and meteorology instruction for the U.S. Naval Academy midshipmen. His next assignment was as flight forecaster onboard the aircraft carrier USS Lake Champlain (CVA-39). In 1956, he was transferred to the battleship USS Iowa (BB-61) where he served as the ship's aerographer, responsible for all weather forecasting and for upper-air ballistic wind analysis to aid the big guns. He made a Mediterranean cruise onboard Iowa as part of the 6th Fleet, traveling up the Dardanelles to Istanbul, Turkey. In 1957, Iowa carried 700 midshipmen for their summer training cruise to Rio de Janeiro and Trinidad. For the cruise, he was appointed director of the ship's choir and editor of the ship's cruise book, the last one published before Iowa entered the inactive mothball fleet. After returning to the USA, he was released from active duty as a petty officer second class.
He then attended West Chester (Pennsylvania) State University where he majored in biology and physical science. He worked his way through college as a summer police officer in Ocean City, N.J., and as a rock 'n' roll singer. He graduated in 1961 with a Bachelor of Science degree, then completed graduate courses at Pennsylvania State University and the University of Florida. For several years, he taught biology and general science at Abington (Pennsylvania) High School, then left teaching to become a medical magazine editor for a pharmaceutical company in Philadelphia.
In 1965, he received a direct commission in the Navy Reserve from President Lyndon B. Johnson, with the rank of Lieutenant junior grade, and held Reserve positions in Pennsylvania, California, Wisconsin and Washington, D.C. He also served two-week tours onboard USS Guam, USS Iwo Jima and at the Pentagon. He participated in the 1984 recommissioning of the battleship USS Iowa, going back onboard after 27 years, with responsibilities for White House liaison and press relations. He performed a similar function for the recommissioning of the USS Wisconsin (BB-64) in 1988. He was retired from the Navy in 1990 with the rank of captain, and received a letter of appreciation for his many years of service from President George H.W. Bush. Among his decorations are the Meritorious Service Medal and two Navy Commendation Medals.
George spent 10 years working for the Miller Brewing Company in the government affairs department. His last position with Miller was director of federal relations in Washington, D.C. In addition, he spent several years as a reserve lieutenant with the Santa Cruz, Calif., Sheriff's Department.
He was preceded in death by his parents; an infant sister Laura; his first wife, Mary Louise (Cranmer); and his wife of 35 years, Cecelia Elise (Bodkin). He is survived by two sons, George P. "Buddy" Woodward III, of Spartanburg, S.C., and Todd Daniel Woodward, of Eugene, Ore.; a sister, Susan Marriott of Pottstown, Pa.; and two nephews, Haydn Marriott of Skippack, Pa., and Erich Marriott of Cranford, N.J.
George and Cecelia lived in the Florida Keys for 10 years, where he sang and acted with a community theater group. He also volunteered his boat and himself as driver for a Florida marine science project, reintroducing conch on the coral reefs. They moved to Sugarmill Woods in 2005, where he volunteered more than1,000 hours as a boat captain at the Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park. He was also active in the choir and other activities at Homosassa's First United Methodist Church. His hobbies included flower gardening, photography, reading (especially history of World War II and the Civil War), bird watching and foreign travel. With Cecelia, he traveled around South America, through the Baltic, in Europe and the Middle East.
He was a life member of the Navy Memorial, U.S. Naval Institute and Navy League. Other memberships included the American Legion and The Veteran's Association of the USS Iowa.
He has directed that his ashes be spread at sea by the Neptune Society.
A memorial service will be held at a later date.
In lieu of flowers, contributions in George's name can be made to The Veteran's Association of the USS Iowa (BB-61), 2916 N.W. Bucklin Hill Road No.169, Silverdale, WA 98383 (http://www.uss iowa.org/), and First United Methodist Church of Homosassa, Fla. (http://www.1umc.org).
Published in Citrus County Chronicle on July 9, 2013