Today my Big Daddy, Leon Wood, passed over from this life to the next. I firmly know that he is in heaven, celebrating the presence of God and rejoicing and reuniting with those that went on before him. In honor of him and the incredible life that he led I wanted to post what I wrote to go into the bulletin for his funeral service on Thursday.
A man is only as good as his word. We’ve all heard that expression a thousand times. But when it came to Leon Wood, you knew it was the truth. He was going to do what he said he would do and when he said he would do it. You could also guarantee that he would do it the right way, with honesty and integrity. There are not a lot of men like Leon Wood left these days.
Leon Wood was born September 10, 1928, in Duplin County. He was the oldest son of Leslie and Ruth Wood. In 1947 he joined the Army. He was stationed in Japan for approximately 12 months and then fought in the Korean War from June, 1950 until October, 1952. Right before leaving for war he married Peggy Ann Bullard on June 4, 1950. Upon leaving the Army he and his family resided in Clinton, NC, where he worked as an electrician. In 1966 Leon, Peggy, and children Sandra and Jeffrey moved to Jacksonville, NC, where he worked at Weyerhauser and Southern Electric. He later worked at Camp Lejeune for the Department of the Navy as an electrical inspector. He retired after working there for 20 years.
Leon, also known affectionately as Daddy, Big Daddy, Granddaddy, and Coach, was a great man. For over 30 years he dedicated himself to teaching young men (and a few women as well) the fundamentals of baseball along with sportsmanship, character, and the right way to play the game. For 27 years he coached First Citizens Bank Little League team, which later became the Jaycees, in Jacksonville. He later went on to help as varsity pitching coach at Jacksonville High School for several years. He was extremely knowledgeable about all things sports, and even more knowledgeable when it came to life. He had no hesitation about correcting a player that did something the incorrect way, and he had no hesitation about praising them when they did something the correct way. The impact that he had on his players through the years cannot be measured. Many a player aged 10-12 had dreams and aspirations of playing for coach Wood and the Jaycees, and many a player was disappointed when they didn’t get him for their coach. He always said “If I can change the life of one boy it made all of my years of coaching worthwhile.”
It wasn’t just the youth of Jacksonville that Leon cared for. He was a strong family man with very high morals. He was always very proud of Sandra and Jeff, and his grandchildren Todd, Jason and Caitlyn. He loved them very much and did whatever he could to help them. It didn’t matter if it was fixing something around the house, working on a car, or building something, he was always assisting his children anyway he could. When Jeff played sports growing up and in high school he always was there. He has been known to travel several hours just to watch his grandchildren participate in various sports and activities, usually bringing his video camera to record the events.
But don’t let his love for his family fool you. He could also be stern when he needed to be, and was a firm disciplinarian. He was funny about his stuff, and as much as he loved his grandkids, they knew better than to touch his things (like the channel on the TV) without permission. As he grew older he was less concerned with things, and more concerned with just spending time with his family. He mellowed much in his old age, and showed even more love and compassion. His family cherished him and loved being with him, as exhibited up until the point that he left this world, with his family right by his side, just like he had been for them all of his years.
Today, there is a void left in this world. In this day and age, there are not many Leon Woods left. They are few and far between. With Leon’s homecoming not only does he leave a hole in the hearts of his loved ones, but also in the hearts of everyone who knew him. The world was a better place because of this beloved son, brother, husband, daddy, granddaddy, great-granddaddy and friend.
“Thank you Leon, Daddy, Big Daddy, Granddaddy and Great Big Daddy for always being there and supporting us. We love you!”