- My little 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.
- 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
- It racked our world and changed our destinies.
- I remember my 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."
- I never forgot my dad's wisdom. To this day, you will
receive a healthy handshake from any of the Wooldridge boys and our sister.
Be prepared to look us in the eyes and know that we respect you.
- When our dad died, the newspaper I delivered each morning
carried a story about my 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.
- Such was the case of Howard Wooldridge. One day we saw
him at work or in the express lane at the grocery store with a gallon of
milk under his arm, and the next day, we read about his untimely death.
If it's unbelievable to those of us who were merely his friends or acquaintances,
it must be devastating for his family. Maybe more so with the Wooldridge
household than with other families.
- Howard 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 child. 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.
- It's going to be difficult to get past Howard's death,
regroup and go forward, but in his sons, daughter, wife and friends, he
left us with a legacy of fair play, enthusiasm and a will to win.
- The human 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 frailties. We will miss
- The dark horse of death came for Howard Wooldridge too
soon and it came for his youngest son, John, much too soon.
- I remember 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.
- Later, he trucked all over this nation with United Van
Lines. He loved computers and excelled.
- With the girls, ever the optimist, Rex and I asked how
he did on a date the night before: "Beginner's luck!" he said
with a smile.
- He joined 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.
- 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 quiet way.
- Like our 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 with enthusiasm. 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."
- To our 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 human being. May the Great
Spirit smile upon his journey and may he be smiling down on all of us.
And so it is!
- John Howard Wooldridge, dead at 51, may he rest in peace.
- God bless his journey.