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For area families, his volunteer spirit leaves a legacy

Robert Wood M.D. has been volunteering for nearly 60 years and has touched hundreds of lives.

  A retired pediatrician, Wood is a longtime volunteer at Clifton Springs Hospital and Clinic as well as many other organizations.

  "At the age of almost 93, his spirit and desire to help others are limited only by his physical ability to do so," says John Galati, president and CEO of Clifton Springs Hospital.

  In 2000, Wood started the Greeter Program, offering assistance to everyone who enters the hospital. He continues to be a greeter and was coordinating the daily volunteer greeter schedule until the beginning of this year.

  Wood also has volunteered with Clifton Springs Hospital’s Community Connection, which offers health and education programs for seniors. Its auxiliary has benefited from his participation in various fundraising events.

  In addition, Wood is a volunteer and member of the board of directors for the House of John, a two-bed home for terminally ill people in the village of Clifton Springs. Those who work with him say his support for dying individuals and their families is cherished by those he has helped at the end of life.

  "He gives freely of his time to help with any project at the hospital, House of John or the local school district," Galati says.

  Wood sponsored the Kids in Crisis program; trained volunteers work with students and families in difficult times, such as after the death of a sibling.

  Born in 1918, Wood is a Canandaigua native. He graduated from Cornell University Medical School in 1943. These days he is vice president of the class of 1940 Alumni Association at Cornell.

  During World War II he served as a U.S. Army paratrooper and surgeon. He later retired from the Army Reserve with the rank of colonel. He celebrated his 80th birthday with a parachute jump to commemorate his military years.

  In 1954, Wood joined the medical staff of the Clifton Springs Hospital & Clinic, where he practiced pediatrics for more than 20 years. During this time he became an assistant professor at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

  In 1975, he became the lead pediatrician for the Monroe County Health Department, a post he held for more than 13 years.

  Wood and his wife of 63 years, Carol Ann, have eight children and 16 grandchildren. He began volunteering in the early years of his marriage while serving as president of the Clifton Springs Rotary Club. Wood is one of the founders of Camp Onseyawa, the Rotary district’s summer camp for handicapped children. He also volunteered as the camp’s medical director for its first 10 years.

  Sports have always been an important part of Wood’s life.

  In his retirement he was a volunteer coach for the DeSales High School track and cross country teams in Geneva. Five years ago he helped found the Midlakes High School Athletic Hall of Fame. He continues on its board and gives his time to support the development of young athletes.

  A longtime member of the Rochester Track Club, Wood ran in hundreds of Rochester-area races. He served as organizer, volunteer and participant in many races benefiting worthy causes. Of particular note: In the early 1990s, when he was in his 70s, he participated in four MIA/POW relay runs. The races began in Rochester and ended in New York City, Philadelphia, Boston and Washington, D.C.

  Wood twice participated in a 1,040-mile torch relay with 13 runners, all older than 50, for the Empire State Games. He ran in at least six marathons and was the USATF 2004 national champion for the indoor 3,000 meters for the 85-to-89 age group. He defeated the American record holder at this distance.

  Wood has gone the distance in more than running. He has left a legacy with his volunteer spirit, affecting the lives of hundreds of area families, Galati says.   

Lynette Haaland is a freelance writer and a former Rochester Business Journal reporter.

3/18/11 (c) 2011 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or e-mail [email protected].

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