Clarence M. Wood Jr., founder of Wood Funeral Home Inc., died in his sleep on Tuesday, June 6, 2017. He was 90.


Clarence M. Wood Jr., founder of Wood Funeral Home Inc., died in his sleep on Tuesday, June 6, 2017. He was 90.

He was born on Nov. 20, 1926, to the late Nannie E. and Clarence M. Wood Sr. in Lexington. He received his early education in the Lexington public school system.

Recognizing the limitations of the educational opportunities in Lexington and believing in the value of education as a means to improve one’s lot in life, Woods’ parents made a decision in his early years that would impact the direction of his life for years to come.

They allowed him to leave Lexington in his early teens to begin his high school education at the West Virginia State High School, then located at the West Virginia State College outside of Charleston, W.Va. There, he received educational opportunities that were not available in his hometown. A lover of science, he would later recall how he had learned all he knew about science from a textbook in his school in Lexington, but was introduced to a world of new learning by the microscopes and laboratory experiences to which he was exposed at his high school in West Virginia State.

After concluding his school years in West Virginia, Wood matriculated at the West Virginia State College in 1944. His education was interrupted when he was inducted into the United States Army on June 25, 1945. His experiences as a 19-year-old stationed in Paris, France, further opened his eyes to the world around him.

When he received his honorable discharge in December 1946, Wood returned to West Virginia State, where he completed his undergraduate education, graduating in 1949, with a bachelor’s of science degree.

When he migrated to Philadelphia to attend mortuary school, his reaching out to his former classmate, the late Geraldine Bowser Wood, led to a renewal of friendship that ultimately resulted in their marriage on April 5, 1952. They were married for 64 years and two daughters were born to their union, Cynthia and Wanda.

In August of 1959, with Geraldine by his side, he opened the Clarence M. Wood Funeral Home on the corner of 56th Street and Girard Avenue. Inspired by two family members who were already funeral directors, Elmer Bullock and Newton S. Bowser, Wood, who was employed as a probation officer, stepped out on faith to establish his new business. In the decades that followed, the business grew exponentially as the Woods earned the respect and repeat business of families in the West Philadelphia area and across the city with their compassion, care and professionalism. Wood often remembered the early years when the business was growing and the family lived at the funeral home.

Wood joined Vine Memorial Baptist Church on Dec. 28, 1958, under the pastorate of the late Rev. Leonard G. Carr. Within several years of his joining, Carr recommended him for the position of trustee, a position he gladly accepted and held for more than 40 years until he was elected trustee emeritus in August 2010. Wood gave generously, not only of his time as a trustee, but of his resources and advice on business decisions the church had to make.

Wood was a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., having pledged in 1949. He was also an avid golfer who took up the sport in 1952.

“Dignified, refined and well-spoken, Clarence M. Wood was the consummate gentleman, both in his personal and professional relationships,” his family said in a tribute. “As a businessman, he mentored several young adults interested in the mortuary business, who later went on to establish their own successful businesses. As an African-American role model, he set an example for young men to follow that emphasized the value of hard work and dedication to tasks. As a husband and a father, he was all that anyone could ask for and more.”

A service was held on June 16, followed by burial in Ivy Hill Cemetery.


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