The Rev. Shirley Wear Wood, a native Lakelander and member of a pioneer citrus family, died Sunday after a brave battle with cancer.
A 1963 graduate of Lakeland High School, Mrs. Wood had a lifelong love affair with learning. She at-tended Stephens College, the University of the Seven Seas, the University of Hawaii, and the University of Florida, receiving her AA degree from Polk Junior College in 1965 and her BA in Religious Education from Eckerd College in 2000. With her husband's en-couragement, Mrs. Wood went on to pursue her dream of serving in the ministry by becoming a li-censed Unity Teacher in 1998 and later graduating from the ministerial program at Unity Village, Mis-souri. She was hired to be the spiritual leader of Plant City's Unity Christ Church in 2000 and attended the Field Licensing Program with the Association of Unity Churches, becoming an ordained minister in April of 2009. Mrs. Wood attributed her love for God to her Methodist grandmother who lovingly told her to "always sit on the front row and sing real loud."
Mrs. Wood was involved in the city of Lakeland's early historic preservation efforts when she chaired the Architectural Survey Team for Historic Lakeland. Those efforts helped to spearhead the push to place the South Lake Morton Neighborhood on the National Register. Mrs. Wood's beloved childhood home and that of her grandmother are both part of this historic district. A lifetime commitment to service was in-stilled in Mrs. Wood by her family who lead by ex-ample. In addition to having family members on the Board of Florida Citrus Mutual, the Florida Citrus Commission, and in various civic groups, Mrs. Wood and her sister followed in their Grandmother Askew's footsteps by managing their family groves. Mrs. Wood further served as a realtor, an antiques dealer, and a part-time teacher. She adored children and was beloved by them, especially her grandchildren. As part of her commitment to learning, she was a mem-ber of the Toastmasters Club of Plant City, taught reading in a Plant City elementary school for three years, and was a sustaining member of the Jr. League of Greater Lakeland whose primary projects involve children's literacy.
Mrs. Wood's sister Ann Jacob stated, "Shirley was a very kind, thoughtful, and loving person as a child, and this continued. throughout her life. She had a wonderful sense of humor and was loved by everyone who knew her." Sheila Lotterhos, a close friend and fellow community volunteer, agreed and added, "With an uncanny ability to see the strengths in others and a desire to encourage them to rise to those strengths, Shirley was often the wind beneath many wings, including my own. She was generous to a fault and the definition of the word friend." Donna Skinner, a childhood friend since the fourth grade, summed up the feelings of family and friends stating, "I wouldn't have taken a million dollars for the time I spent with her. We were together for 56 years, and those were the best 56 years of my life."
Mrs. Wood is survived by her husband Leonard G. "Geoff" Wood of Mulberry; son Scott Brown and wife Amy, son Todd Brown and wife Gina, grandchildren Austin, Hunter, Amanda, and Lilli Brown, all of Lakeland; daughter by marriage Jennifer Day and husband Marc, grandchildren Kara and Justin Day of Pittsfield, Maine; daughter by marriage Sandra Mou-ton and husband Bryan, granddaughter Allana Mou-ton of Auburn, Georgia; son by marriage Eric Wood and wife Heather, grandchildren Isaac and Michaela Wood of New Madison, Ohio; sister Ann Jacob and husband Bruce of St. Petersburg, step mother Helen Wear of Lakeland, aunt Virginia Askew of Lakeland, first cousins Mary Hinson and Lee Askew of Lakeland, and a host of other family, friends, and pa-rishioners. Mrs. Wood was preceded in death by her parents.
A family visitation is slated for 1:00 P.M. on Satur-day with a Celebration of Life Service to follow at 2:00 P.M. at Heath Funeral Chapel. Interment immediately following at Oak Hill Burial Park. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in her name to Silent Unity, 1901 N.W. Blue Parkway, Unity Village, MO, 64065.
Condolences may be sent to the family at