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Michael Woods remembered for a smile, and a laugh PDF Print E-mail
Tue, Aug 01 06




They flowed freely at St. Peter�s Church on Fair Street yesterday as family and friends came to bid farewell to Michael J. Woods, a two-time mayoral candidate in Warwick who died suddenly last Wednesday at the age of 49.

�He was my baby brother,� James Woods said, crying during his eulogy, so much so that it brought the famous actor to pause many times in order to regain his composure. But the other mourners could hardly contain their emotions or their grief, shedding tears as James shared story upon story of growing up together with Michael � in good times and bad.

The most telling example surrounded the death of their father, Gail Peyton Woods, when Michael was just 3 and James, 12.

In the final hours of his life, the elder Woods shared his last wishes with his children, including a letter to James that contained his thoughts and instructions on how his oldest son should grow up as a man and guide the family into the future, along with their mother, Martha.

But Michael could hardly bear the loss, and after the funeral disappeared from the family�s Warwick home, leading police to search the neighborhood for his whereabouts. He was found a short time later, a half-mile away, sitting beside his father�s final resting place at the Pawtuxet Memorial Cemetery. James said Michael had gathered some hand-picked flowers to place above the grave and told his older sibling he was there, �waiting for his father to come home.�

News of Woods� death spread quickly last Wednesday. He had returned to his Nausauket Road home after work earlier in the day, telling fianc�e Lisa Konopka that he had a pain in his throat. Konopka drove Woods to Kent Hospital�s Emergency Department for treatment. But by 7:35 p.m., Woods expired. Officials at the state Medical Examiner�s office listed the cause of death as heart disease.

�He never once said an unkind word to another human being,� James said of his brother, noting that Michael always seemed to have a smile on his face, or laughed, so full of happiness and joy for one reason or another.

There was such an outpouring from the community that visiting hours at Peter J. Barrett Funeral Home, which were to have ended at 9 p.m. Sunday, had to be extended to 11. At that time, in order to give the family some relief, the doors were closed although there were still some people waiting to get in. Those who attended the wake remarked more than once how gracious the family was in talking with them and sharing stories about Michael.

Andrew and Lisa Bathgate were among those who were at the Church of St. Peter. Andrew got to know Michael as they both served as coaches on their sons� Warwick Junior Hockey teams. Lisa worked on one of Michael�s campaigns for mayor and says she�ll never forget how he got her backstage at a Rolling Stones concert.

�He did what he could to please others,� she said.

The eulogy James presented offered some insight into just how much Michael savored life � and more so, family. The last time the two brothers were together was on a recent trip to Las Vegas � a brief respite James agreed to participate in despite a busy schedule filming episodes of his new CBS-TV drama, �Shark,� in Hollywood. They drove to Vegas even though James was on a tight production schedule. Bringing a moment of levity to the ceremony, James said he exaggerated his recovery from recent surgery to explain his delayed return to the show�s producers.

As James and Michael were leaving the hotel after their trip, one heading west and the other returning east, James said that he stopped his brother near an elevator and told him, �You know how much I love you.�

Michael, said James, turned to him and replied, �Yeah, I know, because I love you that much, too,� opening his arms wide as he embraced his brother before heading home.

Acknowledging that he�d grown up to be �angry and bitter,� James said that his brother, on the other hand, taught him about humility and being humble and he pledged that from now on his life would always follow a similar path.

James said he couldn�t imagine life without his brother and realized as the family was preparing for the funeral how he said he would do one reading at the funeral service while Michael could do another. Then, of course, the reality of the situation hit. It also had its impact on the mourners. Some once again burst into tears.

Politicians representing local, state and federal government attended Woods� funeral. Among them was Mayor Scott Avedisian, the Republican who fended off challenges from the Democratic mayoral opponent during elections in 2000 and 2004.

�My thoughts and, I am sure, those of many Warwick residents, are with Michael Woods� family,� Avedisian said in prepared remarks he issued Thursday.

�Although I did not know Michael before he ran for elective office, over time we became friendly, and I found him to be a kind and personable man,� Avedisian stated.

�Where others are content to simply stand by and complain if they see something in the community that they don�t like, Michael invested his time and energy to actively bring issues to the forefront and had a genuine desire to make life better for his neighbors and his family. I know Michael will be deeply missed and fondly remembered by all those who loved him, and he will remain in my prayers,� the mayor stated.

Congressman James Langevin, who attended the funeral, said he has had a close connection with the Woods family since he was a young boy. He attended the Lad and Lassie preschool run by Michael�s mother.

William Lynch, chairman of the Rhode Island Democratic Party, was also among the many political leaders present at Woods� funeral.

�Here is a man who loved people,� the Rev. Nicholas J. Iocovacci said in his homily as he spoke about Michael.

�He was a people person,� the reverend said, adding that Michael always had a smile on his face.

�Michael, I love you with all my heart,� said James, who gave his brother�s casket a final hug and kiss and then helped lead the Woods family outside the church. At Pawtuxet Memorial Cemetery, near where Michael�s father is buried, three white doves were released in to the air, the birds symbolizing the �father, the son and the Holy ghost,� said friends who were there.


With reports from John Howell.

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