Francis “Gene” E. Wood
September 19, 1932 - May 18, 2013
Francis E. "Gene" Wood, age 80, of University Park, Maryland, passed away Saturday, May 18, 2013, from complications of Lewy Body Dementia (LBD), a pernicious disease that attacks both cognition and mobility. Gene Wood was born in Jefferson City, Missouri on September 19, 1932. Although he left Missouri and moved to Maryland in 1964, Gene always considered himself a Missourian and frequently returned to Missouri to visit his family and childhood friends. It was in Missouri that Gene became a Boy Scout. Gene considered his scout leader, along with his grandparents in Madison, the strongest influences of his childhood. As an adult, Gene was a scout leader and active in adult leadership training, for which he was presented the distinguished Silver Beaver Award. Throughout his life, Gene exhibited the unassuming niceness reflective of his Midwest roots. It was one of the many traits that attracted people of all backgrounds and ages to Gene. At the age of 19 Gene joined the 1st Marine Division and fought in Korea where he earned a Purple Heart and the rank of Sergeant. Gene often attributed his military time as life altering, as it exposed him to the necessity of teamwork, the hardship of war and the opportunity for leadership. It also provided him with the VA benefit that afforded him the funds to support his education, which included a BS and MS from the University of MO and a PhD in entomology from the University of Maryland. Gene was a pioneer in the field of urban entomology. As an Extension entomologist and Professor, he concentrated on educating the pest control industry and the public they serve, as well as conducting applied research. Using his skill as a scientific illustrator, he produced scores of publications and drawings covering the identification, biology and control of pests. His illustrations will soon be available on the University of Maryland website. In the 1970s he began transforming a loosely organized group of Maryland "exterminators" into pest management professionals by providing training leading to certification at his annual Interstate Pest Control Conference, which is still hosted today by the University of Maryland Entomology Department. Gene worked extensively with public institutions. His applied research showed that African Americans are less prone to having head lice than other groups, thus enabling school systems to more efficiently manage lice outbreaks among students. A major research effort of his was documenting the early detection of chlorinated hydrocarbon pesticide resistance in the German cockroach. In the 1980s Gene adapted the agricultural concept of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) to reduce pesticide use in dwellings by developing trapping, baiting and harborage reduction techniques to manage exploding German cockroach populations in apartment buildings. Large demonstration projects were conducted with Baltimore City public housing and the National Institutes of Health's animal care facility, which still uses this program. In retirement Gene co-authored three IPM manuals for the EPA and consulted with the National Park Service to use urban IPM to preserve historic buildings across the country from insect attack, including the room in which Abraham Lincoln died. Gene received the Distinguish Service Award for Extension from the University of Maryland College of Agriculture in 1986. In 1988, the year of his retirement, he co-founded and hosted the first National Conference of Urban Entomology. Gene loved to read and read widely. He was intrigued with the origin of words, a lover of rhyming poetry, a student of history, and an ardent fan of Mark Twain. Although non-religious, Gene informed himself about religions around the world. He loved the daily read of the Washington Post, with particular focus on comics and the editorial page. One of his most cherished possessions was his library. A few weeks before he died he asked his home care aide to help him count his books. The count was never completed but he estimated 2,000. Books simply gave him joy. In 1972, Gene purchased 22 acres of hilly land bordering the Lost River State Park in Hardy County, West Virginia. This simple act was the beginning of a strong and abiding connection to the hills, not a surprising bond for a naturalist like Gene. With the help of many, Gene built a log cabin with trees he cut, dragged down the hills and barked by hand. Over four decades, the original tiny cabin was expanded and plumbing and electricity added. Life-long friendships were cemented around the much-used wood stove. Once the cabin was built Gene diverted his interest to cultivating a moss path, which meandered around the woods. Thus the cabin and surrounding hills began to be called Mosshill. While not a sophisticate by the usual definition, Gene was a lover of art, an excellent insect illustrator and a sculptor. He also was very good at drawing insect cartoons. He loved art history and representative painting and enjoyed taking many art classes where, in retirement, he transitioned from insect illustrations to drawing the human form. Gene was a proud Democrat and a fierce supporter of social justice. In the 1960s and 70s he served as an ombudsman for affirmative action in his college at both Missouri and Maryland. He never shied away from an argument where he could articulate the liberal cause. His unwavering sense of fairness made him much respected, even among conservative friends. One of the trademarks of Gene was his love of a good party and a glass of Merlot, preferably Yellow Tail. Gene and his wife Nan entertained literally thousands in their home with casual gatherings filled with dear friends, great storytelling and ample food and drink. Gene put great stock in friendship and often said, "It takes a friend to be a friend." Despite the hard struggle of dealing with LBD, Gene was able to maintain an active life with frequent trips to his beloved Mosshill and he regularly enjoyed dinner with friends up to one week before his death. He loved following the news and cursing politicians. A highlight of his last year was his 80th birthday celebration, where his family joined him at Deep Creek Lake for a week of fellowship. Gene is survived by his wife and partner of 33 years, Nan Booth. His previous two marriages, to Alice Wood and to Margaret Wood, ended in divorce. He is also survived by four children, including Nancy Wood-Cohen of York, Pennsylvania, John Wood of Jessup, Maryland, Joseph Wood of La Luz, New Mexico, and Rebecca Wood of Seattle, Washington; his brother Bill Wood of Jefferson City, Missouri and his sister Sharon of Lenexa, Kansas; three grandchildren, including Aaron Wood, Joshua Wood and Grace Wood; two nieces, one nephew, nine in-laws, many dear friends -- and two Boston Bull pups. A memorial program in Gene's honor will be held on the University of Maryland campus on June 21, 2013, at 3 p.m. in Room 1140 in the Plant Science Building. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made in Gene's name to either the non-profit organization Literacy West Virginia, to support establishing a literacy program in Hardy County, West Virginia, or to the University of Maryland Foundation, to support student scholarships. Checks for the literacy program should be made out to Literacy West Virginia and sent to Judy Azulay, P.O. Box 522, Union, WV 24983. Checks for the entomology scholarships should be made out to the University of Maryland Foundation, with a note on the check "For Steinhauer Scholarship," and sent to the U of MD Department of Entomology, Rm 4112 Plant Sciences, College Park, Maryland, 20742.