Richard Joseph Woods, of Traverse City, passed away unexpectedly on Nov. 3, 2017 at the age of 78. He was preceded by nine siblings who died at birth due to RH factor. Rick was given a full transfusion of blood at birth in Rhinelander, Wisconsin and became the only living child of Victor Oswald and Averyl Phyllis (Boda) Woods on Aug. 14, 1939.
"Rickey" moved with his family many times throughout his life, living in more than 20 towns before age 20, mostly across the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. At one point they even lived in a chicken coop. After attending many schools, he eventually graduated from Holy Name High School in Escanaba in 1957.
Rick had aspirations of being a baseball pitcher but two weeks before his 16th birthday, he contracted Polio. At the time, the vaccine was only administered to women and children. Having lost the use of his legs, he was quickly given the vaccine, narrowly preventing full paralysis. He went on to obtain a degree in Residential Construction from Michigan State University where he walked six to eight miles per day, to and from classes, on his crutches. He would essentially hop across campus as his crutches left the ground behind him before his feet landed in front. Rick would remark that he had to replace his rubber crutch tips weekly and could go backwards up multiple stairs in as single step. During Rick's time at Michigan State, he was a varsity member of both the table tennis and rifle shooting teams. After graduating he moved to Salt Lake City, Utah to pursue architectural work.
Rick moved to Traverse City in 1978 with his parents. He continued his architectural career and also took up photography. Rick photographed over 800 weddings and countless senior pictures during his middle years. It was rare to go in public with him and not have someone recognize him as their photographer.
In 1983, Rick met Jamie Karen LaFranier at a wedding he was shooting. Jamie recognized Rick as her neighbor and introduced herself. She would later caution "Be careful who you say 'Hello Neighbor!' to. You may end up marrying them." Shortly after the wedding, Jamie visited Rick, needing "help with her camera." A dubious premise to be sure, but it achieved the desired result. Rick and Jamie married Nov. 26, 1983. Due to his disability, it was uncertain if Rick could have children. In what became a long string of miracles, Rick and Jamie welcomed Jenelle May to their family on May 15, 1986.
Rick lived a life that some never thought attainable. He was an active table tennis player into his mid 70s, assisted with disabled children at Camp Royale through his middle years and lived independently even grocery shopping on his crutches, refusing to use an electronic handicapped cart in his later years. This fall, Rick had just recently overcome a fractured pelvis for a second time, the removal of cancer and a kidney and was back to his normal life; stubbornly supporting himself in almost every way. It's a testament to his strength of mind and character that he not only conquered this hurdle as an elderly, disabled individual but lived a very full 62 years as a victim of polio. Although "victim" would be considered an entirely unfitting term for anyone that knew him.
Richard was preceded in death by his loving wife, his parents; his in-laws, Louis and Marvel (Spencer) LaFranier; and brother-in-law, Timothy Roethlisberger. He is survived by his daughter, Jenelle (Andrew) Thomas, Dixie (LaFranier) Roethlisberger, Louis (Sharon) LaFranier and Jana (Doug) Hanback; and his two amazing grandsons, Clyde and Archer Thomas which were the pride of his last years. His faith was unshakable, his love without limit and his generosity endless.
Visitation for friends and family be held on Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Reynolds-Jonkhoff Funeral Home.
The service will be held on Monday, Nov. 13, 2017 at 11 a.m. with visitation beginning at 10 a.m. at the Sojourn Church. Rick will be laid to rest next to his wife at Grand Traverse Memorial Gardens.
In lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation to the Father Fred Foundation.
Please visit www.reynolds-jonkhoff.com to share your memories with the family and to sign Rick's online guestbook.
Published on November 7, 2017