Neighbor of the Week: Henry Woods

Neighbor of the Week: Henry Woods

The memories islanders share are sincere and the online posts from the rest of the country stand as a testament to his character.

He was among the best of the best.

First rate gentleman, dedicated public servant with a fantastic sense of humor.

I will never forget how he called (Mike) Huckabee the antichrist…

Henry truly represented the good of people and represented Rotary and everything else he was involved with class. – Steve Robbins, Sunrise Rotary President.

He was just so articulate and the students loved him. – Sharon Ferrell, FKCC Department Head of Social Science and Fine Arts.

The Florida Keys lost a treasured community member and dear friend this past week. Henry Woods died Sunday morning after suffering an aneurism on Christmas Day.

As fellow Rotarians, friends, and colleagues remembered Henry the tears were noticeable… even over the phone.

“At the airport in November he was so excited. We were on the same flight together and he was going back to Arkansas for his 40 class reunion.”

Carrie Helliesen, executive director of the Florida Keys American Cancer Society, remembers one of her last encounters with Henry.

“He was truly enjoying every minute of it, and I know it meant a lot to him he was able to see all of his classmates.”

Helliesen knew Henry through their service in the Key West Sunrise Rotary Club.

“Every single Friday I would get to know him better. All of us enjoyed seeing his smiling face. At our holiday brunch he was giving me ideas about an event we’re working on with Zonta.”

Also, as a member of Leadership Monroe Class X, Carrie recalls his love of politics.

His exuberance for government trickled into the classroom and in 2005 Henry joined the faculty of Florida Keys Community College as an adjunct professor of political science.

Sharon Ferrell came onboard the same year, and the two shared a classroom.

“He had quite a career in Arkansas politics and on Capital Hill,” Ferrell reminds us of Henry’s work with former Arkansas Governor and former United States President Bill Clinton and his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

“Henry knew what was what and brought practical experience into the classroom. To make a class like state and local government fascinating is a great feat.”

Leadership Monroe County was just one of the many organizations that enjoyed the benefits of Henry’s unbridled enthusiasm. Fantasy Fest Queen ’09 and owner of Barefoot Appraisal Company, Vicki Gordon got to know Henry through Leadership and Monroe County Democrats.

“We have lost a true gentlemen, and I also mean gentle man,” Gordon said. “He was one hell of a guy, and he was just a winner, a true leader. If he was ever in charge, and you were volunteering, you better show up and do what you said you were going to do. He did it all with such grace.”

Gordon knew Henry and his partner of 32 years, Lee “Skilly” Skillington shared a non-conventional relationship in juxtaposition of Henry’s Arkansas upbringing.

“He did choose a different path than how he was raised, and it’s an example of who he was,” Gordon said.

Although a true southern gentleman, Henry had a propensity for telling off-color and unprintable jokes. With glasses and conservative haircut he could be mistaken for some kind of square, but the twinkle in his eye always gave him away.

“He’s such a little devil, you could always see it coming with that look in his eye,” Gordon recalled. “Henry was definitely quick-witted.”

His longtime tennis partner, Lynda Ferchette concurred. “He has a really funny sense of humor. He didn’t tell jokes he just said things in a certain way.”

“We met doing volunteer work at AIDS Help and hit it off,” she says. “Afterwards we’d go out to breakfast and just talk. He had a passion for everything he did, and did everything well. He was a pro, politically connected and he hobnobbed with higher-up politicians in Washington. He brought all of that to Key West and made our island richer just from being here.”

Ferchette points out The Waterfront Theatre and Woods fit together like olives and vodka at social hour.

“To make a long story short, he turned that theatre around. He made the Waterfront a sensational theatre in town by hiring the right people and getting a really good board. He loved theatre,” she gushes.

Woods worked being “adorable” on-stage for this year’s season opener, Broadway with a Twist, in which he performed an opening duet with John Wells.

“John was dressed as Carmen Miranda. He’s a good-looking man, but a bad-looking woman,” Ferchette checks her memory. “Henry stole the show! He was up there rolling his eyes. It was hysterical…absolutely hysterical, and he loved every minute of it and all the accolades!”

A man generous with his time and talent, Lynda wonders if anyone could say an unkind word about Henry.

“That to me is really admirable. He’s just a stellar fellow,” she remarks and one who always ate dessert…first.

Lynda laughs, “He loved desserts. He always said, ‘You should serve dessert first.’ So, he would eat that first and then eat food if there was any room!”

He had such passion, Helliesen reflects. “This may sound cliché but this really solidifies we should enjoy each day to the fullest.”

We can keep Henry’s spirit alive by spooning up the chocolate mousse before the leafy greens, exhibiting passion for our professions, and acting with compassion, integrity, and sincerity.

We will miss our friend. Rest in peace, Henry.

“He was a little man, but he left big shoes.” – Vickie Gordon

Henry Woods wih friends

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