brother John, 13 years my junior, smiled his way into life as the last of five
siblings. He enjoyed amazing attention
from three brothers and a sister. He
grew up with sports, excellent schools at which he excelled, and the promise of
a wondrous life. After graduation, he
attended Michigan State University like the rest of his siblings.
from a unique ‘service brat’ family. We
traveled all over the globe. As a kid,
he wore a T-shirt that read, “My daddy is a Marine!”
Our father, M/Sgt.
Howard Wooldridge, U.S. Marine Corps, a mere 46 years of age, had died while
serving our country when John was three.
It racked our world and changed our destinies.
I remember our
dad saying, “When you shake hands after meeting someone or after a game, grab
his hand and look him in the eye. Let
him know that you’re happy to congratulate him, whether you won or lost. He’s a person, just like you. Same with the
ladies. Show your respect. You may win
or lose in the game of life, but always be thankful you are playing.”
forgot my dad’s wisdom. To this day, you will remember that you received a
firm handshake from John and solid handshake from any of the Wooldridge
boys and our sister. Be prepared to look
us in the eyes and know that we respect you.
To give you
an idea of John’s foundation, when our dad died, the newspaper I delivered each
morning carried a story about our father:
“In memory of Howard Wooldridge. We’ve
come to expect people who are in bad health to approach the doorstep of death
slowly and painfully. We anticipate the end to come this way so that we can
prepare ourselves for it, whether it will be us or someone close. That’s why it
comes as such a shock when a person in apparent good health and endowed with
boundless energy swiftly and quietly slips away.
Wooldridge was an athlete raising a family of athletes. In his early years he
was a participant as well as a coach and leader of sports wherever he traveled.
Later, he stuck to coaching and officiating, leaving the playing field to his
three sons. To an athletically active
man, nothing in the world can be more satisfying than having an athletic
Howard Wooldridge must have had
great happiness with his children. Along
with his wife, Vivien, who was always at his side, and his growing daughter
Linda, he was a man well blessed.
body lasts less than a century; a man’s achievements endure forever. This is
the sum of Howard Wooldridge’s fatherhood and friendship: memories that will
survive throughout the years. To those
who knew him well, Howard will remain a man with limitless zest for life, an
iron determination to succeed and the compassion to understand human
Let it be
known that our mother took up a monumental challenge to raise five kids on her
own. She worked 40 hours a week, and
cared for John. She held us together as
we suffered from emotional shock. Vivien Wooldridge held a steady hand over her
children. We all turned out to be good
Just as the dark
horse of death came for our dad too soon, it also came for his youngest son,
coming home from college to greet John with great anticipation. He carried a mile wide smile. He became a
Star Student and the top of his high school class. During his college years, he trucked with me
in the summers. He motorcycled to Alaska
with us. We played tennis. We sailed our windsurfer. He shared deer camp with many of the friends
here today. Later, he trucked all over
this nation with United Van Lines. He loved
girls, ever the optimist, Rex and I
asked how he did on a date the night before: “Beginner’s luck!” he said with a
the U.S. Air Force and served in Desert Storm.
On one of the ordinances he loaded, he took a magic marker: “To Saddam Hussein,
Get Tough or Die” that came from a title of one of my magazine articles about
Alaska. He sent me the picture. While in the military, he lived in Colorado
where he skied, climbed and rafted the rivers.
His picture dominates many of our adventure pictures and will remain on
my photo wall for the rest of my life.
While we all
experience challenges, troubles, pain and sorrow in our lives, John moved
forward. He cared for our mother in the summers at the farm. He worked toward a teaching degree. He enjoyed his personal pursuits in his own
father, John left the planet too soon. He
left unfinished business for all of us to continue. What is that business? John would say, “Live your life for all it’s
worth every day. There are no ordinary moments. Enjoy your friends, family and loved
ones. Take advantage of every sunrise
and the glory of every sunset. Go fly
fishing, hunting, play golf, fly a kite, go skiing, ride your bicycle or climb
a mountain. You’re living on this planet to enjoy yourself. Pursue your
passions and always smile at the end of a day with a joyful voice, “I showed
God a good time.”
brother John, may he lift into the brighter dimensions of spiritual expression.
May his transition into a new facet of the spirit carry him and his pursuits to
limitless heights. May all of us that
were touched by him be thankful for his presence in our lives. May we go forth from this sanctuary today
knowing that John gave his best to life and he would wish the same for each of
us. He was a good man, a fine brother
and a decent and kind human being. May
the Great Spirit smile upon his journey and may he be smiling down on all of
us. And so it is!
Wooldridge, dead at 51, may he rest in peace. God bless his journey. Frosty, Rex, Howard, Linda and our mother Vivien bid John a deep felt and fond farewell.