John Francis Wood, 79, of Oak Park, died on Jan. 12, 2018. A man ahead of his time, his leadership and passion for social and cultural issues drew people in and inspired them to serve. Born in Chicago to Hilda and George Wood, he grew up in Forest Park and spent much of his time with his grandparents, Hilda and John Schmehl, where he developed a love of food, books, music, friendship, and life.
An avid chess player, he met his wife, Jane Ellen Liddell Wood, at a Maywood chess club, and they married in August 1964. Their marriage of over 50 years was admired by all.
They became active members of the Unity Temple Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Oak Park in 1964. Along with a small group of other young adults new to the congregation, they helped grow a strong and vibrant community, one that has quadrupled in size. John served in every capacity of church organization, helping to make both the building and congregation of Unity Temple a cornerstone of the life and identity of Oak Park.
Unity Temple and food were his great passions, expressed in many fine dinners, some held for the benefit of the Unity Temple Restoration Foundation, of which he was a founding member. He served up food with a side of love, including his (award-winning!) chili at the annual chili cook-off, food-themed workshops at his children’s youth group conferences (“Cooking with Cream”), and formal dinners to raise funds to build a new kitchen for Unity Temple.
John retired from Northwestern University in 2003, where he was director of the Information Management Group in Research and Graduate Studies.
A kind and generous man, John will be missed by the many lives he touched, of which there are far more than he realized.
John is survived by his wife, Jane Ellen Liddell Wood; his children, Evan Wood and wife Samantha, Elizabeth Wood Lyman and husband Zachary, and Michael McNamara and wife Lorna. He is also survived by his brother, Earl Wood, and sister, Patricia Grassman, and his grandchildren Dillon, Douglas, and Devan Wood, Gavin and Zoe Lyman, and Arrow, Adam, and Andrew McNamara.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made in John’s memory to the Unity Temple Unitarian Universalist Congregation, 1019 South Blvd., Oak Park, IL 60302, or http://www.unitytemple.org, with designation to either the “Minister’s Discretionary Fund” or “Unity Temple Choir.”
A celebration of John’s life will be held at Unity Temple, 875 Lake St., Oak Park, on Sunday, Feb. 18. The family will greet guests starting at 2 p.m., the service beginning at 3, with a reception to follow. Of course, food will be served.