Des Moines - Woodward Graham Brenton is dead after 70 years of enthusiastically loving, learning, and leading. Woody was at peace with the coming of death - saying toward the end he had been fortunate in life.
As a man who cherished family, Woody was a dutiful son, a committed husband to two fortunate women, and an ever-present and proud father. At the time of his passing, Woody was gratified to have four lively, bright, and beautiful grandchildren.
Woody felt extremely grateful to receive a top-notch education: Dallas Center Elementary, Windsor Day School and Kurtz Middle School in Des Moines, Taft School in Watertown, Connecticut, Johns Hopkins University, and the University of Chicago. An avid consumer of the news and a continuous reader, Woody was a curious, lifelong learner.
As a fifth-generation Iowa banker and an energetic extrovert, Woody appreciated the connections he made throughout his career.
During his time at Manufacturers Hanover in New York City, his clients were some of the largest international corporations in the world. When called home to work for Brenton Banks in 1982, he was delighted to move back to Iowa. Woody found deep satisfaction in contributing to the family legacy while helping smaller local businesses thrive, especially during his time as bank president in the Quad Cities.
After banking, Woody embarked on a rewarding consulting career working with family-owned businesses to solve leadership issues. On many occasions, he took pleasure in developing a succession plan to smoothly transition a beloved family business to the next generation.
Woody gave back to the community with passionate service on local boards, including: The Des Moines Art Center, Coffin Fine Arts Trust, Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, Des Moines YMCA, and NAMI Iowa. He volunteered at Food Bank of Iowa in recent years.
Brewing a good pot of coffee, reading several newspapers, preparing a Mark Bittman chicken thigh recipe for dinner, and doing small things to improve the lives of others filled his retirement days. An avid list maker and eager caregiver, Woody liked to stay busy and sought to be helpful, asking little in return.
Variety, wonder, and spontaneity were at Woody's core. He loved a good road trip, especially the drive across Mexico. There was no Mayan temple too tall to climb. His attention-grabbing socks paired with colorful Crocs set him apart. Woody enjoyed a different cocktail every night, and while some eat to live, Woody lived to eat, savoring every culinary experience - especially if it included hot peppers or stinky cheese. The more stinky the better.
Woody was active on land, as well as on water. A tall, handsome man with a beautiful stride, running the New York City Marathon was his most notable personal achievement. He loved being on his bike on a sunny day. Drawn to water, Woody would frequently be found in a kayak, power boat or sailboat while seeking the joy and comfort of family time at his oceanfront home in Mexico and family homes on Spirit Lake, Iowa and Woman Lake, Minnesota.
Woody was a man of contradictions. He was careful to avoid carbohydrates but believed Mrs. Clark's mayonnaise, maple syrup, hots sauces, and all condiments in general were a separate note-worthy food group. He screamed when a Band-Aid was removed but sailed with a broken arm and complained of no pain as cancer metastasized into his bones. He rarely used profanity but owned a well-read volume of The Limerick.
Woody will be remembered as a quirky, kind, generous man - one who lived life to its fullest. If there is an afterlife, Woody is now kayaking amongst sea turtles in warm Mexican waters with Zorro, his Mexican hairless dog with hair, and Julie, his predeceased wife of 40 years.
For those of us left behind - the large extended Brenton clan; brother Bill Brenton and three nephews, children and spouses: Victoria Brenton and Adam Lackey, Woody T. Brenton and Vanessa Lang, and Ted and Yara Brenton; grandchildren: Zane, Jude, Zelda, and George; and his wife Michelle Book - his passing leaves an enormous chasm, as he adored each of us absolutely.
Woody's memorial service will be 11:00 am, Friday, March 12, 2021 at Lutheran Church of Hope, 925 Jordan Creek Parkway, West Des Moines, Iowa 50266. Interment of his cremains will be that afternoon on the Brenton family plot at Dallas Center Cemetery.
A live-stream of the memorial service from the church will be available shortly before 11:00 am on the link https://hopeonline.tv/specialevents
Memorials in Woody's honor may be directed to Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, The Des Moines Art Center, Food Bank of Iowa, or Brenton Arboretum.
"My day is done, and I am like a boat drawn on the beach, listening to the dance-music of the tide in the evening." - from Stray Birds by Tagore
Published by the Des Moines Register from Mar. 8 to Mar. 14, 2021.