A life well done

Our community felt a tremendous loss in mid-May that stretches well beyond the shoreline and deep into our city and county.

Jerry Woods, who owned Surfside Marina, died suddenly at only 66. A man with as big a heart as they come had it simply give out on him way too early.

He could have been just a boat dealer, when he and wife, Diana, bought Surfside. But his drive, determination, a never-ending smile and a sincere caring about those around him made him more than a salesman (top distributor in the country, I might add.) Those attributes put him squarely in the history books for our community with good deeds that will last for years to come.

Look around, and you see his laudable works – many I probably don’t even know about. Just days after his death was LakeFest, the Southeast’s largest in-water boat show. I was at the Pell City, Alabama, Chamber of Commerce that night eight years ago when he and Tradesman dock builders owner Fred Casey asked the group for a sponsorship to get it started.

The passion with which he spoke revealed the vision of what it could be. He didn’t just talk of it in terms of selling boats, he saw it as a unique way to promote the lake, make it a fun, entertaining, family weekend and pump tourism dollars into our economy. And the profits would go to worthy causes throughout the community.

He and his colleagues achieved just that. To their credit are sizable contributions to the Logan Martin Lake Protection Association and its Wetlands Project, an environmental effort that preserves our wetlands and maintains them as an outdoor classroom for young and old alike.

This year, profits will go toward adding eight new boat slips to the public launch at Lakeside Park so that more people can enjoy what our lake has to offer for years to come.

But the giving doesn’t stop there. Many other worthy causes have all been beneficiaries of Woods’ vision for LakeFest.

Who says there’s no free lunch? That wouldn’t be Jerry Woods, especially when it comes to kids. He joined with Town & Country Ford General Manager Doug Bailey and fellow businessmen who years ago saw a need to give back to the community by feeding children at the local elementary schools. They band together each week during the school year to provide lunch, putting that money back into the pockets of their parents to help elsewhere with the family budget.

Just a few weeks ago, he and his company sponsored tickets for first responders and senior citizens to see Martha Reeves and the Vandellas on stage at the local theater.

Always the patriot, his love of country was ever evident. He never missed an opportunity – public or private – to thank his brother for his ultimate sacrifice in Vietnam. He was a veteran himself, and he took veterans from the Col. Robert L. Howard Veterans Home on boat rides. Veterans from the home have been honored every year in a special ceremony and fireworks display at LakeFest – esteemed guests of the annual event.

If you needed anything, just ask Jerry. I remember as a newspaper editor the day we asked him to demonstrate to our readers just how bad a flood had been. He waded down the boat ramp at Surfside until the water was thigh deep, smiled for the camera and shared that where he was standing would have been winter pool and should have been somewhere around his feet.

I have heard so many ‘Jerry’ stories over the past few weeks, but my favorite seemed to be a recurring theme. “He called me when he heard I was having a pacemaker put in,” one man said. From another: “He called to check on me when I had surgery.”

Those stories simply underscore the notion that Jerry genuinely cared about the people he met. He didn’t just sell boats, although he was more than just pretty good at that. He promoted goodwill, and he made each of us feel special. That’s a rare talent. And Jerry mastered it.

That much is obvious. Just take a look around our community, and it’s hard to see a good work that Jerry didn’t have a hand in. As I approached the LakeFest entrance this year, seeing the sign dedicating and honoring this year’s event to Jerry, it couldn’t help but evoke emotion.

Yours was a life well done, Jerry. A life well done indeed.

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