Thursday, April 30, 2009

Tribute to a Mentor: John Woodrow

Yesterday, I learned about the sudden death at age 59 of a man who hired me 10 years ago to work with him to help provide employment for adults with developmental disabilities. At the time, I had been self-employed for a dozen years and felt ready for a change as I approached my mid-50s. John Woodrow took the risk of hiring this "older guy" to join him at the non-profit organization.

A front page story about John in the Register Guard told much about the public side of his life. He was truly a public servant, devoted to his adopted community. The story on the Springfield Times website offered a more personal look at his life from people who were his friends.

I had the privilege of working with John for nearly three years. Over the years since then, we saw each other at community business meetings and spoke on the phone several times (usually when I was asking him to be a reference for me, which he always graciously agreed to do).

During our years of working together, what I remember most about John was his fairness, inventiveness, and clear communications style. Once, when the executive director at the time was attempting to place blame on me for a sales slump during a difficult time for the non-profit, John backed me up and saved my job -- at least for a little while. John's proposals for making changes to the production operations (which would have opened the door to significant sales opportunities) were met with deaf ears by the executive director. And John ended up getting "cut loose" from the organization a few months before I was. All turned out for the better for both of us (and for the organization when their Board hired a new executive director).

I loved John's inventiveness in creating ways for developmentally disabled people to produce and package products for our business clients. He would play around with various "jigs" and other contraptions that made it possible for the jobs to get done. John was also a "grand master" of spreadsheets. Yes, spreadsheets. He designed ways to capture and analyze production and cost data that must have taken many hours to create on his computer. His understanding of production operations and business management was exceptional.

John was a "no B.S." kind of guy from Wisconsin. You always knew what he stood for and where he stood on issues. While he and I were far apart politically, I always supported his election and reelection to public office because I knew he was a "straight shooter" with a heart of gold. His contributions to his community (and the accolades he received and richly deserved) over just 12 years in Springfield were "awesome" in the truest sense of the word.

As I reflect on my time with John, I think the most significant thing he showed me through the way he lived and worked was the importance of "showing up fully-prepared and ready to make a meaningful contribution" to whatever you've chosen to do in your life. While not a new life learning for me, it is one that John demonstrated so well and so completely that I won't ever forget it.

May all the many friends and colleagues of John Woodrow celebrate him for the contributions he made to our lives and our community. I'll miss him.

PHOTO CREDIT: Craig Murphy/Springfield Times



I attended the Celebration of Life for John on May 1oth, along with hundreds of other people. Speakers included several public officials who celebrated John's service to our community, his faith, his love of family, friends, and his dogs, and his gentlemanly way of being in the world.

Among his many forms of service, John was a champion for the K-9 dogs employed by our police department. It touched me to see three of their dogs sitting next to a standing policeman throughout the celebration.
And what looked like our whole police force was sitting in two rows ahead of me along the the Chief who spoke about John's support of policing in Springfield.

While I could say much more about the service, I prefer to post a couple of the photos of John from the program. Thanks also to John Rodney Woodrow, III -- his son -- who posted a comment about our blog posting.
Tribute to a Mentor: John WoodrowSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

1 comment:

John Rodney said...

Yes, he was a great man! I am John Rodney Woodrow III, his son, and I only hope to live up to his name!