January 18, 2015
Memorial Minute: Richard Reeve Wood, Jr.
March 30, 1932 – June 5, 2010
Richard Reeve Wood Jr. was born March 30, 1932, to Richard R. and Nancy Morris Wood in Moorestown, New Jersey. He grew up surrounded and seasoned by Philadelphia Friends. He attended Moorestown Friends School and received a B.A. in English from Haverford College while it was still an all male school. He loved playing soccer at Haverford or anywhere else he could round up a game!
Richard’s fascination with farms, farm animals and aesthetics of the land grew ever more important when he began working summers on a Quaker farm along the Delaware River. As a Conscientious Objector he served two years at the Earlham College dairy farm.
Following his stint at Earlham, Richard married Elizabeth Hoag. They bought the Goddard farm, a small farm in Brunswick, Maine, which had been bequeathed to Durham Monthly Meeting. There they had four children: Rebecca, Gilbert, Anna and Susan. They also built a Jersey herd of some note. After their divorce Richard continued to farm and provide hospitality to folks from various walks of life who were passing by. His was a compelling and welcoming presence and he connected easily with all sorts of people.
Richard loved cows and spent much of his time as he worked in the barn thinking and dreaming of the emerging contemporary small farm movement. He was ahead of his time, like Wendell Berry whose writings inspired him. Later he was given an opportunity, when hired by the Maine Department of Agriculture as coordinator for the Agriculture Viability Program, to travel and write on behalf of the small farm movement in Maine. Richard was a gifted writer and published articles in Small Farm Journal, Maine Times, Times Record. There was a memorable piece in the Boston Globe reporting on Richard’s visit to war torn Nicaragua as part of an Oxfam delegation.
Richard was a beloved and active member of Durham Friends Meeting, serving in various capacities including Monthly Meeting Clerk, Trustee, on Ministry and Counsel, and occasionally giving the message. He was Clerk of Falmouth Quarterly Meeting for a time.
One First Day at Durham Friends Meeting, Richard and Susan McIntire rose in the midst of silent worship and he declared, “Before God, my family and friends, I, Richard, take thee Susan to be my wife. With divine assistance and help from my friends, I will be unto thee a loving and faithful husband.” Susan responded in kind. The clerk read the marriage certificate aloud and invited each of us there to sign as witnesses. Those present witnessed a traditional Quaker wedding, and Richard and Susan went on to have a real Quaker marriage.
Richard and Susan eventually sold the Brunswick farm, moved to Western New York in 1990, and bought another farm. This one had Holsteins and draft horses. Here they continued raising their children Reeve and Isaac. They were assisted in this new venture by local farm folks including those in the nearby Amish community.
In 2000 Richard was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, which he managed with characteristic grace and optimism. Richard and Susan returned to Maine in 2003 to be closer to family and friends.
Those of us who are privileged to have known him and listened to his deep penetrating voice, marveled at the almost effortless way he established close rapport with others. His Quaker roots and seasoning were embedded in his presence. He was profoundly steady and comfortable. Children loved him. He loved dogs. He wrote mystery stories. He loved his family. For many of us he was a compassionate listener. There are myriad tender memories of cups of tea with him at the kitchen table.
No Hallmark Angels,
they asphyxiate me.
Send me one like
Richard Wood in
floppy rubber boots.
His large hands
cracked and gnarled
from washing cow’s
udders on winter days.
This cold Maine morning
The barn smells of burnt
rushes. A holstein heifer
is down dead in her stall.
He backed the old John
Deere into the barn and
dragged the carcass past
the restless herd, breath
rising like incense smoke.
He kicked a heap of snow.
“At least she’ll freeze out here
in the dooryard till I can think
of some place to put her”.
Inside we had a dirty mug of
tea and were as close as
those cows in the barn.
Approved by Durham Monthly Meeting of Friends, Meeting for Business, January 18, 2015, Sarah Sprogell, Presiding Clerk.