Cathy Wood’s last memory of her beloved father-in-law, Joe T. Wood Sr., was of her and a friend placing a cross in his hand on Friday, April 26.
“He clung to the cross until he went to heaven late Saturday afternoon,” she said Monday morning.
Wood reflected on the life of the Hall County businessman and World War II veteran who also devoted himself to decades of public and community service.
“He was a strong, kind, generous man,” Wood said. “His life was the perfect example of a life well lived.”
Family, friends and business colleagues are mourning the 96-year-old iconic figure, who died April 27 at his home.
A Hall County native, Wood graduated from Lyman Hall High School in 1940. He married the late Helen Thrasher Wood in 1941.
He served in the Philippines during WWII and would go on to start in the insurance business in 1951. He joined Paul Turner in forming Turner and Wood Insurance Agency, a successor to the Whitworth Agency that started in Lula in 1905.
Harold Smith would join the duo in forming Turner, Wood & Smith Insurance Agency, which operates today at new headquarters at 1515 Community Way, Gainesville.
“He was one of the finest men I’ve ever known,” Smith said. “He really wanted to help other people, especially the veterans.”
“He took a chance on me when I first started there,” said Rob Fowler, the company’s executive vice president and partner. “He was always very supportive and encouraging.”
Fowler said Wood was dedicated to his work.
“He would still come into the office in his late 80s and early 90s. He would check his mail and make phone calls,” he said.
President and CEO Joe T. Wood Jr., who joined the firm in 1977, said his father had several “great loves,” including his faith and family.
Wood Sr. was a member of Chicopee Baptist Church for more than 75 years.
“I know of nobody that loved Hall County more than he did,” said his son. “He thought if you were born or lived in Hall County, there was something special about you.”
Wood also wanted the best for veterans.
“He worked real hard on benefits that veterans receive,” Wood Jr. said.
A lifetime member of the American Legion, Disabled American Veterans and Veterans of Foreign Wars, Wood Sr. became a member of the National VFW Political Action Committee in 1956.
“Joe met with every president of the United States from Dwight Eisenhower through George W. Bush to help improve the benefits provided to our active duty military and veterans,” Wood’s obituary states.
Wood Sr. also served in the Georgia House of Representatives for 23 years, beginning in 1965.
He was chairman of the Defense and Veterans Affair Committee for many years. He also was a member of the Appropriations Committee for 18 years, working to secure funding for Gainesville College (now University of North Georgia’s Gainesville campus), Lanier Technical College and Interstate 985.
Lifelong friend Jerry Jackson, a former House member, remembered Wood over the weekend.
“He meant a lot to the community,” Jackson said. “He was a pillar of the community, especially to all of Northeast Georgia.”
Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Tuesday, April 30, at Chicopee Baptist Church.
Pierce W. Huff contributed to this report. This report has been updated from its original version.