Obituary: Charles Edwards Wood '42

Charles Edwards Wood  (4/18/1919--12/28/2016)

Charles Edwards Wood, 97, of Lacey, Washington, died December 28, 2016, peacefully at home surrounded by his family.  Charles was born April 18, 1919 in Carney’s Point, New Jersey to Maria Antonia Van Doorninck Wood and Charles Edwards Woods Sr.  Charles was the youngest of four siblings, all of whom preceded him in death.

Charles graduated from Withrow High School, Cincinnati, OH in 1936.  He began his bachelor’s degree at the University of Cincinnati but achieved his dream of being accepted to the US Naval Academy-Annapolis, from which he graduated in 1941.  He served in the Navy until his retirement as Lt. Commander in June 30, 1962.  Medals and ribbons earned during his service include: Letter of Commendation with medal, American Defense (service between September 1938 and December 7, 1941), American Area, Asiatic-Pacific Area, World War II Victory, American Occupation, China Service (Extended), National Defense, Korean Service, United Nations (Korea), Philippine Liberation, Korean Presidential Unit Citation.

While stationed at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center in Illinois, he met a lovely young librarian, Ann Rayner, from Lake Forest, IL, and married her on August 22, 1942.  Charles and Ann had four delightful daughters, Pamela Darling of Cleveland, OH; Cynthia Anthony of Tacoma, WA; Debbie McNeil of Seattle, WA; and Nora Mena of Lacey, WA. Charles had ten grandchildren and six great-grandchildren of whom he was extraordinarily fond.

After retiring from the Navy, Charles embarked upon his second career as an Episcopal priest. He graduated from Seabury-Western Theological Seminary in June 20, 1965.  He served as vicar of mission churches St. John’s in Colville, WA, and the Redeemer Episcopal Church in Republic, WA. In 1969, he joined the staff of the Episcopal Diocese of Spokane and served five bishops until his retirement in 1980. He was named an Honorary Canon of the Cathedral of Spokane, WA in 1980 and served as Secretary of the Diocesan Convention for many years after his retirement.

Charlie and Ann shared a love of travel and adventur,e including once taking a freighter trip from Seattle to Hamburg, Germany. To celebrate their 80th birthdays, Charlie and Ann took a 100-day Semester at Sea cruise from Nassau, Bahamas, to Seattle, which included stops and field trips in Cuba, Brazil, South Africa, Kenya, Malaysia, Vietnam, China, and Japan.  Until they slowed down a bit in their 90s, friends and family were accustomed to receiving post cards from their numerous trips and cruises all over the world.

Charles was a passionate supporter of many causes of social justice.  He began supporting Planned Parenthood in the 1950s.  He was an active supporter of Civil Rights, the ACLU and the Southern Poverty Law Center.  In the 1980s, Charlie and Ann helped found the Spokane chapter of Parents and Friends of Lesbian and Gays, and Charles spent the remainder of his life fighting for the rights of the LGBTQ community in the military, in the church and in the world. On April 30, 1992, he was the first clergy member to testify in front of Congress on behalf of the rights of gays and lesbians in the military.  Charles believed this was one of the proudest moments of his life.

Charles regularly corresponded with representatives, Presidents, government officials, newspapers, bishops and anyone he felt needed to hear what he had to say, which was often wise, well thought out arguments about difficult issues.  Family and friends knew him as a generous, loving and gentle man who dearly loved God, his country and his family, and who believed it was his responsibility and duty to always fight for the last, the least, and the lost.

In lieu of flowers, donations to any of the many causes Charles Wood supported would be very meaningful, including the National Committee of PFLAG, Planned Parenthood, the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the United Nations Refugee Agency, Spokane Public Radio-KPBX or KCTS-Channel 9.

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