My Parents

Clifford Ray Wood and Saidee Dowling Wood

For the period prior to the Depression see the sections on my Paternal and Maternal Grandparents

As mentioned previously, Cliff was born in Sioux City Iowa in 1910 and moved to Fellsmere Florida at age 8. The depression hit in 1927 about the time my dad would have graduated from high school. In November 1930, at age 20, he married Olive Brown in Fellsmere, and they soon moved to Miami where he sought employment during the depression. Their marriage broke up five years later and Cliff had moved to Washington DC looking for employment with the government there. At some point he started work for the US General Accounting Office and began attending classes at American University studying accounting.

My mother Saidee was born in Fairfax South Carolina, also in 1910. Her parents moved around some but ended up in Saint Petersburg Florida in the late 1920s where she graduated from St. Pete HS in 1927. She then attended Stetson University in DeLand. In the summer of 1931, her family took a trip to Washington DC where they took an interest in the hotel business. After graduation from Stetson, Saidee she took on a trip on a steamboat that departed Key West and visited to Havana Cuba. In 1933 she married Edward H Munday Jr., but that marriage ended in divorce in 1935. She lived in and worked for her parents at London Hall Apts. In DC.

Saidee and my father Clifford R Wood - both were from Florida but met in Washington - were married in DC on Christmas Day in 1940. On their honeymoon they stopped in Times Square on New Years Eve before going on to Niagria Falls.

Cliff and new wife Saidee Wood on their honeymoon

Things would change abruptly for them a year later. On Dec. 7, 1941, they were attending a Washington Redskin's football game when it was announced over the public address system that Pearl Harbor had been attacked by Japan. In order to build up the military as quickly as possible, In April, Selective Service (the Draft) announced a special program where recruits with some college could enter directly into Officer Candidate School. At this point, dad had two years of college so he qualified. He was in the first group of these candidates to join up and was pictured in a newspaper article with the Selective Service Director. After completing OCS,and before getting an assignment, his group were lined up and told to count off. The first man was a "1" and the second man a "2". This repeated until everyone was either a 1 or 2. Everyone that was a "1" was sent to the front in Europe. Fortunately my dad's number kept him stateside or I would not be here. After a tour at Bolling Field in DC of all places, he went on to become an accountant with the Army-Air Corp working at the Ford Motor Willow Run plant in Detroit that produced a new B-24 bomber every 55 minutes. By the time the war ended, he had risen to the rank of Captain. I was born while my dad was stationed in Detroit but my mother went back to DC for my birth.

Capt. Clifford and wife Saidee Wood holding Walter D Wood

After he was discharged, they lived in the Dowling's Potomac Hotel for several years and became that hotel's manager. The Potomac Hotel and 25% of the London Hall Apts. was inherited by Saidee in 1948 when her father A.L. died.

In 1947, they purchased a large home in the DC suburb of Bethesda Maryland. While in Bethesda, my dad was a deacon and my mother on the Woman's Missionary Society at the First Baptist Church there. They had wanted a large family but only had two children, myself and my brother Gene who was born with Down's syndrome. Gene, profoundly handicapped, required full-time care was institutionalized and died in 1999. They also had a daughter who was stillborn. As a result, I was brought up as the only child. My parents took four long trips driving around North America, three with me and the fourth with my grandmother Mabel Wood. The three I went on --1954, 1956 and 1958 when we drove to Alaska -- were great as we created many great memories. I also met many of my parent's relatives and gained a broad knowledge of America.

In 1959 they sold the Potomac Hotel and purchased the Queen Anne Hotel in Surfside / Miami Beach (photo below). (For those of you aware of the collapse of Champlain Towers South condo, our hotel would have been located immediately adjacent to it.) When the Queen Anne was sold a year later, they obtained land in Homestead Florida.

Over the next few years, they spent a year in St. Peterburg, moved back to Bethesda and then in the summer of 1962 they moved to Homestead to develop the property there. Mother loved to play Contract Bridge and had earned many of Masterpoints in various tournaments. She was also a member of the Ladies Shrine Club. Cliff was Vice Commander of the Homestead (FL) Power Squadron and was in line to become Chief Commander just before his death. He was also a 32-Degree Mason and a member of Almas Shrine Temple in Washington, DC. They both loved the outdoors and enjoyed cruising and fishing on their 30-foot cabin cruiser that was docked in the Florida Keys. They were also members of the First Baptist Church of Homestead.

In the mid-1960s, my mother had been complaining of stomach cramps. After three years of seeing doctors, in April 1966 she was finally diagnosed with colon cancer. They operated and removed a section of her large intestine. That operation was successful, but the cancer had already spread, and she was dead before Christmas 1966. She was able to see me married and her first son before she passed.

Less than a year later in 1967, I graduated from the University of South Florida. In August, I borrowed my dad's cabin cruiser and tool it to the Bahamas with my wife and another couple. We returned on the 16th and said goodbye to my dad and drove back to Tampa. The next morning, before I had woken up, the Homestead police call to tell me my dad had been found in dead in his recliner with the morning paper on his lap and a cup of coffee beside him.

I was only 22 and both my parents were gone. However, in looking back, I was so fortunate to have spent so much time with them, driving all over North America, going fishing, taking the boat to the Bahamas and so many other things. I am also so glad that they were able to follow their dreams while they could rather than waiting for a retirement that never came. I am also blessed that they had me in church from the time I was a baby. (I have my Nursery Certificate from a Baptist Church in DC.) Without that heritage, I would not be where I am today, ready to go to heaven when Jesus call me home knowing I will see them there!

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