Woodwell, Richard H. (9/11/2001)
From Jim Wasz’s 9/11/11 email to our class
In Remembrance of 9/11 and Woody
There are many ways to observe the 10th anniversary of the destruction of the World Trade Center towers. A number of us in our class suggested doing so by remembering our classmate and friend, Richard “Woody” Woodwell, who died in the second tower that was struck that day, and by providing a brief update on Woody’s family. We hope that you will read the following and take a moment to reflect.
John Saer writes, “Woody’s wife, Linda, continues to stay active and healthy, albeit with a huge hole in her heart. Their oldest son, Richard, is entering his senior year at UMass (Amherst). Those who saw young Richard at our 30th reunion (at the 9/11 memorial dedication, after which he and the family left) were startled to see a college age Woody again (just taller!)—a handsome, fine young man.
Their oldest daughter, Margaret, is a freshman at the College of Charleston, and the younger daughter, Elinor, is a freshman in high school in Ho Ho Kus, NJ. Linda and the kids still go up to their Hyannis Port, MA house where Woody enjoyed so many summers growing up and until his death.
Linda has stayed connected with a number of Woody’s former prep school (Avon Old Farms) and Keefe Bruyette & Woods colleagues and/or spouses, and will be attending Keefe Bruyette’s annual memorial service at the Central Park Zoo taking place on 9/11.
As a postscript to that awful day, Woody was in Tower Two, which was the second one hit, and was undoubtedly preparing for the market opening after Tower One was hit (recall that people were told to stay in their offices after the first plane hit). After Tower Two was hit, about ten floors below Woody’s 89th Floor offices, there is no record of Woody calling out. Woody had a cell phone but did not use it or perhaps did not have a chance to use it in the maelstrom that must have ensued.
Among Woody’s colleagues on the equity desk at Keefe Bruyette, the only survivors were those who were not in the building that day. One, Tom Michaud, missed his usual train from Greenwich due to a sick child, with the later train having him arrive downtown just as Tower 2 was hit. Another, Woody’s boss and golf partner, Phil Cuthbertson, to this day credits Woody with saving his life. Woody had convinced Phil that he had been successful enough and should retire, which Phil did in July of 2001.
Woody’s remains were found and identified (including his monogrammed silver money clip, which the groomsmen in his wedding—on Sept 10, 1988—received). Woody’s ashes were buried near his home in New Jersey sometime later in 2001.
There are too many stories from Woody’s life—most of which make one laugh just thinking about them—to rehash here. Suffice to say he remains a part of the lives of all of us who had the privilege of being around him. Those who knew Woody miss him, and will never forget him. He brings a smile to a lot of faces whenever we think of him.”
Thank you, John for sharing. To the Class of 79, please join me in remembering Woody and the others who were lost that day.
From our 30th reunion memorial service
Richard Woodwell was a government major and member of Psi U. He was an investment banker working on the 89th floor of World Trade Center Tower Two on September 11, 2001.
The following article was published by the Dartmouth.
‘Woody’ Woodwell ‘79 pursued destiny
by Charles Gardner, The Dartmouth Staff
Tuesday, October 30, 2001
Richard Herron Woodwell ‘79 was destined for business success from an early age. As a sixth grader growing up in the Pennsylvania town of Ligonier, Woodwell—who was an avid coin collector—would often trade coins with the elderly owner of a local jewelry shop.
“This gentleman really got a kick out of their trading, but my brother was good at it, and probably got the better end of the deal some of the time,” elder brother J.K. Woodwell recalls.
For Woodwell, known to his friends as “Woody,” a childhood hobby would eventually lead to a lifelong career in investment banking, in which he worked as an equities trader for the New York firm Keefe, Bruyette & Woods.
Woodwell, who served as Senior Vice President in the company’s trading department, was stationed on the 89th floor of World Trade Center Tower Two when the second hijacked jet struck the building.
Born the second of three children in Pittsburgh, Pa., Woodwell moved to Ligonier with his family upon entering the sixth grade, and later attended the Avon Old Farms School in Avon, Conn., before coming to Dartmouth.
He embarked on his career in investment banking immediately following graduation, initially working as a floor broker for Dean Witter at the Pacific Options Exchange in San Francisco. He married his wife Linda Preston in 1988, and soon afterward moved to Ho-Ho-Kus, N.J.
Friends and family members remember a man devoted to his job and family in equal measure.
“I think Woody is a great example of how to achieve balance in life,” said John Saer ‘79, a classmate and longtime friend. “While he always worked hard, he managed to leave it behind and spend time with his family… he was a very involved father.”
“I would describe him as very competitive, both scholastically as well as in sports,” J.K. Woodwell said. “At the same time, he was completely devoted to his family, which was by all means the joy of his life. He was a tremendous family person.”
“He was dedicated to his work but not wrapped up in it,” wife Linda Woodwell said, telling how Woody coached soccer teams for two of their three young children, and often took the family on skiing vacations, in addition to spending summers on Cape Cod at their family’s house in Hyannisport.
“We never went to Disney World or any cookie-cutter vacations… he loved doing great things with [the children],” she said.
He enjoyed golfing, sailing, tennis, skiing and soccer, and strongly encouraged his children in their own athletic activities. His younger sister, Pamela Woodwell Geerdes, spoke fondly of a winter he had spent living and working at Snowbird, Utah, following college graduation. He later took his family to Snowbird each year during Thanksgiving vacation. “He really had quite the life,” she said.
While at Dartmouth, Woodwell, a government major, excelled academically and was widely admired by his classmates.
“He was unquestionably one of the nicest guys in the class,” friend and ‘79 Class President William Mitchell said. “He carried himself with such humility that you were never aware that he had such academic prowess.”
At the College, Woodwell participated in a wide range of organizations, foremost among them Psi Upsilon fraternity (where he worked as secretary), Class Council and the Winter Carnival Committee, which he headed in his junior year.
“He was very active at Psi U and was certainly somebody that everybody knew,” John Saer ‘79 said. “He was a very well-known and well-liked member of the class with a very wide group of friends.”
According to Mitchell, Woody’s popularity was due to his adventurous and confident nature, and his sheer enthusiasm for life and friends.
“We went together on the LSA in San Luis Potosi, in Mexico,” Mitchell said. “One day, in Puerto Escondido, a few of us stood above this 30-foot cliff to survey the prospects of diving in even though we had no idea what was below the surface.”
“Just as two of us were about to go, Woody beat us to it by jumping in feet first.”
In another incident, Woodwell was asked late one night to make a run to the William Tally House, a 24-hour eating establishment located at the bus station in White River Junction. Such “Tally Rallies,” as they were known, were not uncommon, though Woody added the novel twist of driving clothed only in boxer shorts.
After skillfully explaining his predicament to police during a pullover on the interstate, Woodwell arrived at the Tally House only to be stopped by a “no shirt, no shoes, no service” policy. Undeterred, he donned a girl’s sweater conveniently found in the back of his car, placed two golf club covers on his feet, and successfully reentered the store.
“It obviously took a tremendous amount of casual confidence, and that’s why he was beloved by his classmates,” Mitchell said.
Woodwell remained a loyal alumnus of the College after graduation, visiting campus as recently as 1999, when he and his family returned to Dartmouth for his 20th reunion.
“He loved Dartmouth and the people he met there,” Saer said. “There was always a special place in his heart for Hanover and especially the people he came across.”
He was also dedicated to his preparatory school, Avon Old Farms, at which his wife Linda has established a scholarship fund in his name. “I would say he was one of our most outstanding alumni,” said Susan Evans of the Avon alumni office. “He was the glue for his class.”
Evans’ husband, Peter, delivered the eulogy at Woody’s memorial service last month.
Over 400 people attended the service, held Sept. 22 in Saddle River, N.J., including nearly 50 alumni from his Dartmouth class.
“It was just unbelievable coming back from his memorial service—it filled the entire church,” J.K. Woodwell said. “He had a network of friends from all over the country.”
John Saer summed up Woody’s attitude towards life. “I think of him as a friend in the truest sense of the word, as someone who is always there for you and who is eternally optimistic. His love of life made him someone who affected a lot of people very positively.”
“He was a terrific person: kind, gentle and so giving,” his wife Linda said. “He was easygoing, happy and just loved life… it’s too hard to think that he’s no longer here.”
Woodwell is survived by his wife, Linda, and his three young children, Richard Jr., 11; Margaret, 8; and Eleanor, 4; as well as his brother J.K. Woodwell III and sister Pamela Woodwell Geerdes.
From our January 2002 class newsletter
RICHARD HERRON WOODWELL ’79
Of course, we must start with the truly sad report of the death of our friend and classmate, Richard “Woody” Woodwell, at the World Trade Center. Woody was a Senior Vice President at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, a boutique investment bank headquartered at the World Trade Center. Woody worked as a trader on the 89th floor of the second tower of the World Trade Center and, unfortunately, did not leave his desk after the first plane struck the first tower. The second plane virtually wiped out the trading section of Keefe Bruyette, which lost almost all of its traders and more than one-third of its total employees. Tragically, Woody was among those lost. Woody was born and raised in Pittsburg and attended the Avon Old Farms School in Connecticut before coming to Dartmouth. Woody worked for Dean Witter in San Francisco before joining Keefe and moving to New York to work in the World Trade Center 13 years ago. Woody was a born trader. As a sixth grade coin collector, Woody regularly traded coins with the elderly owner of a local jewelry store. According to his brother, J.K., Woody was quite good at it and often got the better end of the deal. Woody enjoyed golf, sailing, tennis, skiing and soccer. He even coached the soccer teams of two of his three children. At Dartmouth, Woody was a member of Psi Upsilon, the Class Council and the Winter Carnival Committee, which he headed in his junior year. Woody is survived by his wife Linda and his three children, Richard Jr., 11, Margaret, 8, and Eleanor, 4, as well as his brother J.K. and his sister Pamela. Woody’s family has established a scholarship in his name at the Avon Old Farms School. If you are interested in making a contribution to this fund in Woody’s name, please send a check to The Avon Old Farms School, 500 Old Farms Road, Avon, CT 06001, attention Mr. Peter Evans. Be sure to indicate on your check that you are making a contribution to the Richard H. Woodwell Scholarship Fund. It is notable that this is the first scholarship at the school to be named for an individual. A memorial service was held for Woody on September 22 in Saddle River, New Jersey near Woody’s hometown of Ho Ho Kus, New Jersey. Over 400 people attended the service including over 50 Dartmouth classmates - an incredible display of how well regarded and loved Woody was in the Dartmouth community. Many of those who attended traveled great distances to be there. Many others sent their condolences and prayers. And those who couldn’t be there in person were there in spirit. We have spoken to many who couldn’t be there due to travel or family constraints but took time the day of the memorial service to remember Woody and his family in their thoughts and prayers.
John Saer, who had remained close to Woody these past 22 years, was kind enough to write an article about Woody, which we print below:
REMEMBERING WOODY, by John Saer
The ladder was perilously perched over a shallow, rocky cove of the lake, rising at an extremely steep angle to the peaked roof of a two-story boathouse. Among the crew of University Services (the name implied more professionalism than we deserved), there were no volunteers to attempt to paint this last remaining section — except for Woody. But that was always the case in that magical summer of 1976. I’ll always remember Woody having no fear of anything. His optimism and love of life were far too dominant. He didn’t really see risk like most people do, but instead always had a plan of how to live life and manage risk. There was always an exit in case of danger. I know when he went up those ladders throughout our painting careers (Woody’s business instincts were strong even then; and as our work took us from painting the Psi U house to summer cottages in Canada, he reveled in engaging in “international business”) Woody always had an escape plan. That is why, when, as I got off a phone call in my midtown Manhattan office (ironically, with a close friend from Woody’s hometown whose daughter — a high school flame of mine who had grown up with Woody — had died 27 years earlier, on September 11), and was hurriedly called to our conference room to the sight of Tower 1 burning, I really didn’t fear for Woody. When I quickly confirmed that he was in Tower 2, I was sure he was okay. When Tower 2 was hit, and the scope of the tragedy quickly unfolded, I still thought that, amidst the horror, Woody would be all right. He just always was, so why would this be any different? And there was too much life ahead of all of us — especially for Woody. Later in the day, Linda was equally certain that he would be fine. “I know he’s just walking uptown to Swannie’s (in great Dartmouth tradition, Woody’s friends never heard him use their formal names) apartment, and will call to say come pick me up”, she confidently remarked. Woody’s optimism and self-assurance were contagious. I think of Woody every day, and I know I’m not alone. At his memorial service, friends from all around the country — and whose only association was through Woody — packed the New Jersey church, all sharing their grief, love, and wonderful memories of a unique man who hundreds considered their best friend. But more than just a friend to many, Woody was a devoted husband to Linda, and an incredible, involved father to Richard, Margaret, and Eleanor. His balance of career and family far surpassed anything he ever showed me on a ladder. Those kids and lovely Linda meant everything to him. At the memorial service, a former teacher at Woody’s prep school, Avon Old Farms, gave a moving account of Woody’s life, and made a wonderful request — that Woody’s legacy be preserved for his children by each of the attendees writing down their thoughts and memories of Woody’s life and sending them to Linda. His children should not be denied knowing the full breadth of his character, inimitable style, and love of life. We owe it to them, and to Woody (ed. note: If you wish to send any remembrance of Woody to Linda and Woody’s children, please do so in care of John Saer, or through Jim or Ben).
OTHER THOUGHTS. Thanks to John for the article and, more importantly, how he, as a friend and a classmate, has been so supportive, helpful and thoughtful for Woody’s wife, Linda, and their three kids. We should also note here that the Dartmouth classes near ours did not escape September 11 unscathed. Sadly, Joseph Flounders ’77, Brian Dale ’80, Kevin Crotty ’80, and Thomas Theurkauf ’81 also perished that day. In closing this section of the Newsletter, we thought it fitting to print the seldom-used second verse of the Alma Mater, which was sung to remember fallen Dartmouth classmates in times of war (apologies in advance for printing the male version, but we have not found an official gender neutral version of this verse as it is seldom used):
They were mighty men of old
That she nurtured at their side;
Till like Vikings they went forth
From the lone and silent North,
And they strove and they wrought, and they died;
But the sons of old Dartmouth,
The laurelled sons of Dartmouth,
The Mother keeps them in her heart
And guards their altar flame;
The still North remembers them,
The hill winds know their name,
And the granite of New Hampshire
Keeps a record of their fame.
In memory of Richard Woodwell, the Class of 1979 has purchased the following book for Baker Library:
Haciendas of Mexico by Ricardo Rendon Garcia