Francis (Frank) Eugene Wood was born April 4th, 1936 and has gone to be with our Good Lord on August 2nd 2019. He passed peacefully at home in Blue Ridge with his wife Cheryl McBeth Wood.
A private celebration of life service will be scheduled in Texas for close family and friends, to be followed at a future date by a graveside service at the Blue Mountain Cemetery in Walla Walla Washington. Dates to be determined.
Frank was born April 4th, 1936, in Waitsburg, Washington, one of seven children born to parents Francis and Mabel Wood. Francis was a long-time wheat farmer in Dayton and Waitsburg area and Mabel was a graduate of the Moscow University in Moscow, Idaho. She was a homemaker and teacher.
Frank graduated from Waitsburg High School in May 1954. During Frank’s high school years, he was an active member of the Future Farmers of America (FFA). Captain of the Cardinals football team and played the clarinet in the marching band.
Frank attended Whitman College in Walla Walla Washington on a football scholarship and earned a degree in Physical Education in 1958. During his college years, Frank excelled in sports, earning numerous trophies in golf, tennis, football and alligator wrestling. He was the Captain of the Football team. One of his teammates remarked, years later, that Frank “was the toughest guy he ever met on the field”. Following graduation Frank tried out, at the behest of his football coach, for the New York Giants.
After graduation, 1958, Frank enlisted in the US Air Force as a 2nd LT. He completed Primary Pilot Training/Officer Training School (OCS) in July 14,1959. He began active service and flew KC-135 (military 707) troopship into Vietnam from Japan as a Flight Engineer, and has remarked that he cold “see the muzzle flashes” in the jungle from VC forces trying to shoot him down. Frank achieved the rank of 1st LT on November 29,1963 and the rank of Captain on August 7, 1964. Frank completed his military duty while flying as Captain in the Air Commandos. While under the rank of 1st LT Frank completed USAF Medical Unit Training on December 28,1961.
As a civilian Pilot beginning 1965 Frank flew under a contract for the Department of Defense as a drug interdiction pilot and was trained in jungle warfare and survival techniques, The Tropic Survival school (USAFSO) on August 20, 1966.
In 1965 Frank retired his military service and began flying for Braniff International Airlines on a Department of Defense contract, flying into and out of Vietnam. Braniff International Airlines which at one time grew to be the fourth largest airline in the world (even briefly fielding a Concored SuperSonic transport with service to Europe). Frank began this employment as a Flight Engineer but trained hard and flew many long hours and achieved the position of Captain. Frank told a story of survival while flying into and out of Vietnam that one particular flight was guided by God’s grace. Frank told the story of a single landing strip that was bombed every night at midnight. Due to the weather the crew was late flying into the airstrip and were sitting in the plane as midnight rolled around. Frank knew that getting out of the plane was not an option as the gas lines ran the length of the trenches on each side of the plane and there was no where for the crew to go for safety from the upcoming midnight bombing. Frank and the crew remained in the cockpit, held hands and began praying God’s will be done. This was the only night that this landing strip was not bombed.
While flying for Braniff, after completing the DOD contract, Frank served many flight routes to include South American routes prior to deregulation, landing often in Columbia, Ecuador, Chile, Argentina, Brazil and many others. Although not fluent in Spanish, he knew enough to order meals and direct a taxi to his hotel. He collected many interesting stories from his International travels and his experiences with different cultures he encountered.
When Braniff first went bankrupt in 1982 Frank went to work locally in Walla Walla as a branch manager for Baker/Boer bank. When Braniff reorganized in 1984 Frank left the bank and moved to Dallas Texas for retraining as a pilot; during the start up Frank and all of the other former employees refurbished the airplanes, installing toilets, benches and other necessities in order to get the company operational as quickly as was possible. Braniff would go bankrupt two more times. Each time Frank would leave his interim employment and return to Braniff.
Following the final demise of Braniff Airlines Frank flew for Express One. Frank was certified to fly crippled planes and did so in and out of the Kansas City airport. Franks skills were recognized by MacDonald Douglas who employed Frank as a Flight Trainer for pilots on the MD11. In 1991 American Airlines in turn recognized Frank’s skills and in turn employed him as a flight simulator Instructor until his retirement in 2006.
During the many relocations hazard by his term in the military and continuing occupation as a pilot, Frank lived in Washington, Oregon, California, Texas, Georgia, Florida, Hawaii and a few others. His children became adept in meeting new friends and learning the cultures of new schools during these migrations.
Frank and Cheryl McBeth were married in June 1993 and began many adventures together to include building their cattle ranch together in Blue Ridge Texas. Frank expanded his heart and family to include an additional daughter Debra Heil and son Derek McBeth and 3 grandchildren.
His interests included sports, as he boxed on a grade school team and rode in Community rodeos while in high school, cattle ranching, and horse riding. He was also a gifted auto mechanic, and scale model builder.
Frank has been described as “the most amazing, soft-hearted badass you ever knew.”
Frank left a message professing his love of his family. As he laid peacefully in his favorite recliner his arm resting on the arm of the chair his left hand positioned the sign of “I Love You” as in American Sign Language.
Some gave some, some gave all and Frank gave everything.
Frank is survived by his wife of 26 years, Cheryl Wood; the mother of his children, Janice E Wood; brothers, John Wood and Jerry Wood; sister, Kaye Wagoner; two sons and their spouses, Jeffrey and Kelly Wood, Jason and Leya Wood; one daughter and her spouse, Elaine and Duane Radmer, and add on children Debra Heil and Derek McBeth and eleven grandchildren and 1 great granddaughter.
Frank was preceded in death by his parents, Francis and Mabel Wood; his brothers, Dan Wood, George Wood, and Jim Wood, and his eldest son, Francis Craig Wood.
Memorial donations in Frank's name can be made to the Wounded Warrior Project supporting veterans who have received serious injuries in service to their country.
Flying Braniff trips with Franks was always a PLEASURE for me. God Bless each of you. Rick Sharp, August 15, 2019 Frank was always a peach to fly with and he always had a giant smile on his face. He was a real asset as a Braniff pilot!!
Sharyn Finnegan, August 14, 2019