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Patriot, freedom fighter and lover of his family, shipmates, Mathews County and its people, Cdr. William H. Wood III (Bill) made his last flight on Nov. 27, 2013. He was 90.
He was predeceased by his parents, Carolyn and Horace Wood; two sisters, and a wife. He now joins his bride of 65 years, Pat. They are happily together once again.
Bill was a native of Nevada, Mo., where his interest in flying was nurtured at a local airport where he fueled planes to pay for his flying lessons. He soloed at the age of 14. After graduating from Nevada High School, he began his studies at the University of Missouri where he also played halfback on the football team. They later played in the Sugar Bowl. His studies were interrupted by WWII so he was off to pilot training and eventually integrated into the fleet where he defended our country flying PBM5s in an anti-submarine role in the Pacific. While at the University, he met the love of his life, Pat, a Stephens graduate who served as a WAVE in the Navy. They were soon married, but served apart until reunited in San Diego at NAS North Island. After the war, Bill and Pat returned to college to complete their educations. It was at this time that the Navy offered Bill a commission. Upon graduation he re-entered the Navy flight program returning to flight status in seaplanes in VP-98, VP-40 and VP-42. Subsequent to his tenure in seaplanes he became qualified in the AJ-3 Savage, the first carrier-based bomber that could deliver a defensive nuclear weapon. At different times he served on the USS Princeton and Shangri-La. For one of his tours he taught flying and navigation to midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy. Of historic note was his high speed refueling of John Glenn’s F8U Crusader when he set the transcontinental speed record across the USA. At mid-career, Bill assumed staff position in the development of the Nike-X program; CIC training protocols; start-up of early warning efforts and retaliatory strike response by SAC bombers and underground missiles, jointly commanded by NORAD at Cheyenne Mountain, Colo. His sea duty in between staff jobs was on the USS Boston and USS Long Beach, the first nuclear-powered guided missile carrier in the U.S., while serving as operations officer of COMCRUDESFLOT 12.
Additionally, Bill graduated from the Navy Postgraduate School and the Naval War College. The highlight of Bill’s career was safely recovering the Apollo 9 crew aboard the USS Guadalcanal after testing the lunar excursion module. At this time he served as the ship’s executive officer. Prior to his last assignment, he served as the U.S. Naval Representative to AFCENT in the Netherlands. Upon returning to the U.S., he assumed the role of operation officer at the 5th Naval District until his retirement in 1974.
After his naval career, he was a real estate broker in Mathews. He was a Chamber of Commerce member and volunteer at the Mathews Job Referral Program for many years.
Bill leaves to “carry on” a daughter, Susan (David Allen); son, Mark (Wendy), and eldest son, Bill (Carolyn); two grandsons, Will (Rachel) and Jonathan, and great-granddaughter, Isabel.
Special thanks go to Mrs. Nancy Gray, caregiver; Dr. Christian Wathen and her staff; Dr. Allen Murphy; the Hospice team, all serving Mathews County, for their professionalism and empathy.
Foster-Faulkner Funeral Home, Mathews, Va., is in charge of the arrangements. Interment will be at Windsor Garden Cemetery with full military honors. Services will be private.