October 11, 2014
The culmination of the Gary Wood, 1971, Fundraiser came together as a highly-secret, tactical invasion of the Wood Homestead on Saturday, October 11. Like all military-type plans, we needed a code-name, and ours was provided by John “Chuck” Golden, 1971 who dubbed ours “SLUGFEST” 2014.
Joann “Sam” Wood agreed early in October to my request for a visit from me and Sandy, along with a separate request from former Sweetheart Pat Rist-Brown, 1971 and husband Joe, completely unaware of the larger group we had planned to surprise them both.
Pat, Joe, Sandy & I met up with Bill “Kid” Crowe, 1971 and John “Chuck/Fingers” Golden at the Bethel High School a few miles from their house, and coordinated our scheme of staggered arrivals by phone and text with John “Leroy” Pfaff, 1971, Bob “Justa” Eckart, 1973, and Bill “Turk” Wurst, 1971 and his wife Barb, to maximize and extend the surprise.
Pat & Joe arrived first and Sandy & I followed shortly thereafter for the “known” parties for the day’s events. About 5 minutes later Bill and John arrived for the first of three more “Oh My Gosh” moments for Sam and Sluggo.
Leroy and Justa arrived next asking “I heard there was a party in the area and we’re wondering if this is the place” to which Gary responded “I’d recognize that voice anywhere” – handshakes and hugs all around and more tears of joy from Joann (or maybe tears of terror as she didn’t plan on feeding this many people – before we assured her the food and drinks were already taken care of).
Turk and Barb arrived last to complete the final phase of the assault and we all settled in for some conversation and explanation to Gary and Joann of our “gotcha” operation. Gary demonstrated all the features and options of his fancy electric wheelchair with tilt and raise/lower settings, which really come in handy for cooking and grilling. He is already planning to modify the chair to gain more speed and improve performance both off-road and to hold-the-line in tight turns – car guys – what can you say.
As we visited, Gary had Sam bring out his obviously well-worn, original Norman Shield, evidenced by the cracked binding, which he told us he took with him to the hospital and read daily for strength and inspiration. He choked up as he read to us the inscription from his Big Brother, John Schroeder, written over 40 years ago, but apparently as moving to him today as the day he first read it, demonstrating again that the bonds of Sigma Chi Brotherhood are truly lifelong.
That was the perfect segue for Leroy to present Gary with the Norman Shield signed by all the current Actives and to read aloud the very moving sentiment they wrote inside. Leroy and Justa brought a Sigma Chi banner for our photo of Gary holding up his “new” Norman Shield, surrounded by his fellow Sigs and classmates, and Sweetheart Pat Rist-Brown.
We followed this with our gift of the Gary Wood Fundraising Check for the $9000 we raised to help them with all their added expenses. As you can imagine, this was another very emotional moment for them both (and the rest of us too) and you could tell they felt wrapped in the love and caring it represents.
After all the hugs and teary eyes were dried, we adjourned to the kitchen for lunch of sandwiches and salads provided by Joe & Pat Rist-Brown, a cherry cobbler that Gary made that morning and a delicious apple, cinnamon, raisin, & walnut dish that Barb Wurst brought for dessert.
We had all come planning to do some “light Worksession” projects for Joann & Gary, but had we known what was in store for us, we would’ve probably eaten more. Joann seemed to be channeling our own beloved leader, Bob “Beo” Bedard, 1975, with an incredibly detailed list of jobs to be done and assignments by skill level that would lead one to wonder if she maybe knew ahead of time who would be attending. There were electrical and computer networking projects for Turk, gardening projects for Pat and Sandy, curtain rod and drape-hanging for Barb Wurst, Chuck and Leroy, a towel bar installation for Kid, Justa, and Chuck, and storm windows, furniture-moving and garage-cleaning for Joe and me, punctuated by an occasional beer-break, though not many. Everyone had a job and Joann ran her checklist and followed up on each task like every good foreman (forewoman) or project leader would. We got a lot done in a short time, and before you knew it, we had been there over 6 hours – laughing, crying, joking, hugging and just enjoying the beautiful day and each other – it was like the clock hands had only moved a few minutes since we were all together at RPI, and we had picked up where we left off only moments before.
Though we each filled and enjoyed every minute of our stay with love and laughter, before we knew it, it was time to say goodbye to Gary and Joann and begin recalling in each of our minds the day’s memories we would treasure and add to those already tucked away, that would sustain us until we could be together again.
This was Sigma Chi and Delta Psi at its best, and it was an honor to be a participant. Thank you to all of you who made this possible.
Jim Campbell, III ‘70 “Cramble”
On behalf of:
Bill “Turk” & Barb Wurst, John “Chuck” Golden, John ”Leroy” Pfaff, Bob “Justa” Eckart, Bill “Kid” Crowe, Joe & “Sweetheart” Pat Rist-Brown, & Sandy Bradley.