Witwithwords Blog

Archive for the ‘Family and Friends’ Category

A smile for everyone

My sister, Pam Woodbury LeRoy, would have loved her wake and memorial service! Everyone she loved the most was there – children Darcy, Curt and Michelle and their husbands Russ and Ed and Kristin; grandchildren Tyler, Cody, EJ, Heather, Ethan, Annie, Gus, Zac and Luke and then Maddie and Hayden Lightly, the 2 she informally adopted; sisters Linda, Cyndie and me, my brother Woodyand our significant others, Jerry and Russ; all of the Stagg cousins, including Danny, the one she partly raised; finally Jack Myer, who represented the Woodbury clan.

Pam’s heart for people was bigger than she was. Fun to be around, she smiled and laughed most. She was the grandmother “Benyen” every kid wanted. Matriarch of the family, she was the first port in a storm, the major caretaker who everyone turned to when they needed help or advice.

“She is family,” we heard over and over again – from childhood and Ramapo Regional H.S. pals (Skip Burgess, Chuck O’Brien, to name a few) to longtime Wyckoff NJ neighbors and friends (Norm Taranto, Steve and Lee Cherry, Steven Rae, the Soumas family, Jodi) to Milford PA neighbors and friends (Mailbox Sue and Fred, Milford PA Garden Club, Curves, Swim Aerobics, Book Club, Mahjong) and even new friends (swim class and upstairs neighbors) from Franklin Lakes, NJ.

Her nail person, hairdresser, a whole contingent of people from Mulberry Drive in PA who said their street was too quiet since she and Lynn, (her longtime husband) moved back to NJ a year and a half ago. Just like in Wyckoff, “there was always a party there. Her door was always open! We missed all of her fun.”

Pam always wanted a Stagg family cousin reunion…well she got one, minus Aunt Hope. Cousin Father Bob Stagg led the meaningful service. Granddaughters Heather spoke of her grandmother’s talents, Annie and Maddie and grandson Gus did a responsive reading. Nieces Kelley Drukker and Alexa Thomas Ingram provided reflections. Woody performed his special eulogy, with deep emotion and then levity, from the ONLY Brother’s perspective. Danny added a funny tribute and Pam’s son, Curtis, closed the house with an amusing tale.


Pam would have relished the parties afterwards. As the wake was closing and the Oakland and Wyckoff Fire auxiliary, Police and EMS departments were saluting her, the fire whistle went off. Firemen including her grandsons and granddaughter Heather rushed to their cars, Cyndie raced to the fire—that was one street away from the family compound owned by Linda and Woody! Everyone got to watch them put it out. The next day as the service ended, the same thing occurred, only now the luncheon was at the firehouse!

This was one of Woody’s main heart-throbs when Derek was a baby. She and Woody are godparents. She had a “batmobile” at the time!

And then, of course, Derek met his Godmother for the first time! (Go to Derek Thomas’ Facebook page for more information.)

Pam must have been guffawing in heaven! She touched so many lives, just by being herself! In her honor, PLEASE LAUGH and SMILE once today.

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One of the benefits – if you could call it that- of having more leisure time than you would like is that you can volunteer more.

Recently, I helped Helen, 92, from my church (First Universalist Society of Franklin, http://www.fusf.org) who needed emergency services at Milford Hospital, http://www.milfordregional.org, in Milford, MA. Helen had wrenched her back muscles while taking care of her younger sister, 88, who was just home recovering from a knee operation.

Let me tell you, Helen is one of those remarkable people who still has loads of energy, fitness and all of her wits about her. She is a retired nursing director. But on the day I took her to the hospital, she was in excruciating back pain and practically crippled over. Despite her pain, throughout that whole long day, Helen was more worried about her younger sister than herself.

The Milford Hospital doctors, nurses and specialists treated Helen with great respect and after many different tests and an MRI, all recommended that she be admitted for more tests and so they could alleviate her pain. But neither Helen, nor her sister, had any other living relatives. The main dilemma was who could care for her sister while Helen was hospitalized. So Helen asked me to drive her home.

Our UU minister and a social worker tried to get Helen’s sister readmitted to the nursing home, but her health insurance (Medicare plus supplemental) prevented that. A private aide was too prohibitive. Finally, a patchwork system of volunteers from the church would deliver a hot meal, check in on her sister daily, so Helen could return to the hospital to receive the back treatment she desperately needed.

It is just over three weeks since I admitted Helen to the hospital. After three days at the hospital, Helen was scooted to a nursing home for physical rehabilitation and rest. Because of medical insurance regulations, she now must come home, even though she cannot stand yet. What happens next is anyone’s guess.

Neither Helen, nor her sister, should be left alone for long periods of time. Which begs the question…..what do people do when medical insurance and Medicare both say no, and they have no relatives to help them further?

Owen, My Grand-Dog

Goodbye, Owen, My Grand-Dog

My Grand-dog, Owen, the best dog in the world, died Tuesday and went to doggie heaven.

Owen, a chocolate Labrador, was a loveable companion to my son, Dylan, for 12 1/2 years. Owen may have gotten old, but he never lost his child-like sense of fun. Whenever he heard my car drive in the driveway, he was up and barking, bounding out to greet me with his wagging tail, excited jumps and wet kisses. All he wanted was a love, a pet and then he was all smiles.

Owen had a real personality, similar to the dog in Marley. The difference was that he behaved around his owner and knew when to be good, for more pets and kisses, and when to whine, to let his owner know he needed some attention.

Owen had a long, happy, adventurous life with my son. He attended UVM, lived at various times at a beach house in Milford, CT, at a farmhouse with loads of acreage and deer in Westport, CT, and at an apartment in NYC. He even traveled cross-country and back on a whirlwind trip with Dylan. In fact, I often had visions that Owen drove part of the way.

Born in Vermont, Owen was trained by Dylan when a young co-ed had no idea what to do with this puppy. When she got a chance to go overseas for a year, she willingly gave Owen to Dylan, who by this time was spending most of his days with the young puppy and had come under Owen’s spell.

For the first three years of his life, Owen romped with his brother and sister Labs in a house just off campus. Owen had a ball, getting into puppy mischief, attending all of their parties, air-jumping into Lake Champlain, hiking mountains and learning to heel and walk the streets of downtown Burlington without a leash. Owen became a real “chick-magnet” for his owner, knowing how to charm the ladies.

I’ll never forget walking with Owen alone on Burlington’s cobblestone sidewalks right after Dylan’s cap and gown ceremony from UVM. Everyone on the street – from shopowners to many young attractive co-eds and other college dudes – knew Owen by name and called out to him, pet his head or had a cookie for him. As one friend said, “it’s like Owen should be mayor of this city.”

During Owen’s college puppy days, he got into lots of trouble – chewing up always just one shoe of an expensive pair. Likewise, he loved women’s underwear – not the daily Hanes stuff, but the lacey, kind, reserved for special occasions. He also liked the smell of dollar bills, beer and chocolate cookies. After noticing his distinct preferences, I asked my son, “are you really hitting the books or have you gone into another type of entrepreneurial venture I should know about?”

All kidding aside, when Owen did get into something he shouldn’t, he knew he was in big trouble. When he did something wrong, he would never greet you at the door, but instead hung his head down in shame in anticipation of your “Oh, No! What did you do! You’re a BAD BOY!”

When Owen rode in the back of the car, he would show his excitement for where he was going. When on I-91 north, he would not stop being excited the whole ride until he got to see his brother and sister in VT. In fact, on every trip back to VT, Owen would rarely sleep, but play the entire time until he left. When he traveled in my car on I-95 North, he knew he was going to the beach and couldn’t wait to chase the birds or mark his territory on our walks.

But Owen also sensed your mood and knew how to soothe the day with a love, a nuzzle, a nudge or a happy smile. He also knew how to cuddle up against you when it was cold and when you needed some TLC. Owen was a great friend to Dylan.

Owen, I’ll miss you, but never forget you!

Okay, I will be brief. Just like Larry Smith’s Six Word Memoir Project, http://www.sixwordmemoir.com, an online site for people’s personal stories started more than three years ago, I will sum up my present state in these combinations of six words:

Marketing Writer/Manager
Here for Hire.

Writing is like
Breathing to Me.

A Creative Mind,
Collaboration, Endless Possibilities.

Good Listener,
Great Storyteller,
Compelling Writer.

My Copy Creates
Impressions, Responses, Sales.

Constant Reinvention
Continually Learning
Endless Curiosity.

Creative Copy Produces
Calls to Action.

Job Titles:
Web Writer,
Manager,
Editor.

Interests: Writing,
Travel, Health,
Dance, Arts.

(At the end of tomorrow, try describing your day in just six unique words! Try it… It’s tough!)

What I’ve learned on the job could fill volumes, but here are some highlights:

As a senior web copywriter for an online marketing agency – how to write compelling Web content with blogs, SEO, PPC ad copy, flash, DM emails; how the best results came from collaborating with the graphics designers and programmers; how the value of social networks and web technologies continually evolve. (I really appreciated the energy and antics of the young techies!)

As a senior copywriter for an ad agency – how the best taglines, logos and ad copy came from industry knowledge, plenty of re-writes and relaxing after-hours inspiration. (When the flash of genius occurred, I would call my cell and leave a message!)

As a PR/Marketing consultant – how to immerse myself in different industries; how to write for different audiences; that an entrepreneur never sleeps. (The great satisfaction I got from client “wins”!)

When I switched from journalism to public relations/marketing manager – how to write the best pitches; how to really serve clients; and how to train top financial gurus (who thought they knew everything) to become the “Go-To” experts when industry news broke. (My mentor, Bill Blase, was one of the best in the business and a former journalist himself!)

As a business reporter, roving reporter and then bureau chief at a large daily – how adapting to changes made me stretch my wings; how important in-depth stories could advocate a change in outmoded laws; and how to balance the daily rewards and pressures of being in charge. (How just when I thought I had seen it all, someone or some issue would surprise me!)

As a managing editor – the value of a great editor, like Mills Korte, who only made my writing better; and how to motivate a staff to uncover business stories the large national dailies ignored. (I’ll never forget the great staff, who all pitched in to get that paper out the door!)

On my first job as a police/fire/court reporter – how to build a network of important sources; how to write in a crunch; and how to trust my gut instinct. (Although the paper no longer exists, we had a reunion four years ago and I fondly recall the camaraderie of that group!)

What have you learned? Are you still learning? I sure hope so!

Memorial Day - flight

Memorial Day weekend is upon us. Whether you are one of the millions hitting the roads, or are one of those who chose to hang out closer to home for picnics with friends and family, take a moment to remember the meaning of the day.

For me and my family, Memorial Day is synonymous with our father, Howard Woodbury, who made sure we knew the true meaning of the day. Sure, we had the typical family and friends at large picnics, but Memorial Day was a BIG day for my Dad.

Like many, my Dad lost his only brother in World War II. My dad never enlisted, even though he went down to the draft board four times – only to be rejected due to severe varicose veins in his legs (reportedly from playing high school football while having chickenpox).

My father regretted that he could never join the services like his brother, his three brother-in-laws and numerous friends. He had to stay stateside with most of the women and those too old or too feeble to serve. Instead of complaining, he volunteered as part of the Civil Defense Corps at home. Thus began his life as a volunteer, giving back to his community, Wyckoff, N.J.

So it is no wonder that my earliest memories of Memorial Day include putting flags on veteran’s graves at the cemetery. And, it’s no wonder that Dad, a volunteer fireman and fire chief, would manage the local Memorial Day services, the laying of the memorial wreaths and the town’s special Memorial Day Parade for more than three decades.

My Dad’s behind-the-scenes work on that parade Parade was evident with its growth and refinement over the years. In fact, at some point or another, everyone in my family had either marched, drove a vehicle or helped out before or after it. And in later years, we would try to be there watching as enthusiastic spectators.

As parade chairman, my father considered all aspects of that Memorial Day Parade – its timing, the types of bands, the varied groups – veterans, politicians, community groups, etc. – and its length (1 to 1 1/2 hours, so it wasn’t too short or too boring.) Afterwards, he would ask us to critique it.

In 1996, the last Memorial Day of my Dad’s life, he was in the hospital for cancer treatments. Knowing it might be his last parade, my older sister and I begged the doctors for a temporary release, so he could watch “his” beloved Memorial Parade one last time. We managed to get him parked in a special place just as the parade began, and every marching unit performed in front of him as smiles and tears of joy ran down his cheeks.

My Dad, “Mr. Memorial Parade,” died in late September of that year. For his funeral, my brother – who followed in Dad’s footsteps as fire chief and parade chairman – fittingly arranged for a funeral parade down that same route to the cemetery with his fire trucks, his antique rig and the last engine his volunteer efforts helped purchase. The Wyckoff Memorial Parade – one of his legacies – continues to this day.

“Mr. Memorial Parade” was never a veteran, but he made all of us stop, reflect and remember why this weekend is a three-day weekend. So, no matter how you enjoy this Memorial Day holiday – traveling, watching a parade or attending a picnic, please take some time from your busy activities like my father to recognize the sacrifices of our present and past brave veterans.

Nothing like your car’s major oil leak on a Sunday to turn your day into mud…..even though it is beautiful and very spring-like outside.

Your boyfriend tinkers with the gasket, slides under the car on his back to see where it is leaking and then pours in new oil, hoping to pinpoint the exact location of the leak. Standing in front of the car with its hood open, he asks you to get behind the wheel and just start this aging (paid my son’s tuition off) VW again.

You turn over the key and the car shoots forward hitting him, as he has left the car in gear, rather than in Park. Your feet immediately slam on the brakes as you simultaneously turn off the ignition. You jump out to see if he is okay. He’s been knocked off his feet back up on the curb and is stunned, sitting in the grass. He’s okay, if somewhat shocked and bruised. He’s mouthing expletives (in general, not at you,) but grinning.

“Jesus, I know you may have felt like killing me in the past few years, but I never thought you would actually try,” he jokes. (You’re half laughing, half in tears over this snafu, but nervously chuckling.)

You climb back in the small car and put the car in Neutral and try starting it again. Your own personal oil crisis is averted, but you know it is only temporary. You set up an appointment with your trusty mechanic and hope a new full-time position is right around the corner, so you can retire this aging vehicle. It’s time to window shop for the next car.