Sunday, 9 November 2014

IN MEMORY: Richard (Dick) Geoffrey Wood (1945-2013)

Dick was the son of Brigadier Lionel Wood, C.B.E. MID and Marielle Hart.

Dick was born in Bognor Regis, Sussex, England. He lived in Austria shortly after World War II during the time that his father was there commanding troops, first in Millstatt and later in Vienna. Dick attended Army School in both Spittal and Vienna.

In his early life Dick took part in many activities. He assisted in building the Family Aviary in New Zealand and breeding many different species of birds inluding prize-winning budgerigars. He was a Patrol Leader in the Milford Scout Group and attended The World Jamboree. He played Cricket for Rangitoto College 2nd Eleven and was a member of the North Shore Rowing Club. He joined both a Tramping Club and a Mountaineering Group and climbed with R.Tornquist (a former Science Teacher at Rangitoto College who had himself climbed with Sir Edmund Hillary). Dick played the drums for the Takapuna Brass Band.

Dick was educated at Oakwood in Chichester, England, Rangitoto College in Auckland, New Zealand and Auckland University where, majoring in Political Science, he attained an M.A. with 2nd Class Honours. He was elected President of the Students’ Association [1966] and started a Student Newspaper “Outspoke” to rival the only previously available Student Newspaper, “Craccum”.

 "The SIS on campus"......

In May 1966 an alternative university newspaper, Outspoke, published accusations of attempts to recruit students as informants by an employee of the Security Intelligence Service, David Godfrey, who had enrolled as a student in Political studies. Some of his fellow students feared that their different opinions exposed to him would jeopardise their future careers.

The University saw no grounds to move his tuition to a completely extramural basis, which was poorly received by some students. In an unprecedented move police were called to break up a 50-strong protest outside the Political Studies department. AUSA sent delegations to Cabinet and other MPs warning of more demonstrations unless active security agents were withdrawn from the campus. The VC denounced the protesters as being disruptive and trying to victimise an individual. The Deans Committee agreed but also resolved that the University would not tolerate a student spying on other students. Politicians weighed into the matter, making various accusations of communist activity amongst staff and students. A commission of enquiry was set up to clarify the matter, and found that Godfrey had been very widely active on campus, making about 30 ‘enquiries’ including investigating two lecturers with European connections. The inquiry concluded that private tuition for Godfrey was the best decision under the circumstances. It was also written into University statutes that any Security Intelligence Service officer enrolled as a student cannot make any security-related inquiries at University." Source:- "Auckland Students’ Association"

While at Auckland University Dick travelled to China representing the Students’ Association and became unwittingly involved in a situation which resulted the following day in the Headline Article in The Auckland Star. Just prior to leaving his hotel Dick had carelessly thrown into the Hotel rubbish basket one of the many photos he had been given of Chairman Mao. This had been duly noted and reported, [having been regarded as a great insult]. The Red Guards stormed into his room and demanded an apology. As penitence, he was told to bow down a number of times and criticize himself. To this, Dick Refused.

To his credit, Dick was able to successfully defuse the situation. Exercising his considerable charm he explained that he had not done so out of disrespect but merely because he had been given a large number of photos of Chairman Mao and since he was about to leave China he had discarded one photo [that he had not torn up] whereupon the Red Guards duly apologised to him and accordingly accompanied him down to the railway station wishing him a safe journey home.

In Australia he decided to cross a rather large desert in a very old car. Given the fact that Dick had absolutely no mechanical skills it was indeed a considerable risk! When the inevitable happened and the car broke down he was convinced his last hour had come. He said that for the first time in his life he prayed. Shortly thereafter, along came a hiker carrying life-saving water and possessing the mechanical skills to fix the old banger! Thus, eventually, together they successfully drove out of the searing desert.

Dick travelled to Russia and then to Bangkok where he taught at Tammasat University but the world of Commerce beckoned and he and a friend worked in a Publishing and Market Research Company in Bangkok "Business Information Services Ltd.". He subsequently wrote a very large book on Marketing & Research.

He formed his own Import/Export company, RGW Co. Ltd., travelling frequently to Taiwan where he had previously lived for three years working for GPC Ltd., a company which was eventually incorporated into RGW Co. Ltd., after he bought it in about 1984. He became Managing Director when he moved to Hong Kong. The company dealt in electronic games and thus his "Spacie Machines" operated 24/7, (these were not gambling machines).

The downfall of this business came when the epidemic of SARS hit the residents living in the apartments occupying the same building in which his business was located. His only option was to shut down the business and leave immediately.

On 15th September 1988 The South China Morning Post printed a Photo of Dick with the Fireman who had rescued him after a fire broke out one night in a high-rise hotel in which he was staying. Just in the nick of time, before he was about to jump to certain death, a ladder was finally found that just reached to his floor and so, dressed only in his sleeping shorts and blackened all over with smoke, he was saved.

In the Philippines he bought a Mahogany Plantation in Santa Fe on the Island of Panay and had a house built there for his family, later purchasing a Sugar Plantation. On one occasion when shots were fired and many sustained gunshot wounds Dick discovered that the injured had been refused medical treatment on the grounds that they were unable to pay. Dick immediately paid for the treatment of every one of the victims He and his family left the Philippines and returned to New Zealand after learning of a plot to kidnap his daughter. Dick sold his North Shore Rental House and then bought a Motel in South Auckland. It was during his time at the Motel that he was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease (ALS) and with the rather rapid progression of the disease the decision was made to return to the Philippines. The Typhoon in 2013 was devastating but Dick bravely clung to life. He died on March 9th 2014 in Santa Fe, Panay Island.

Dick’s outstanding quality was his exceedingly compassionate, kind and generous nature. He would literally give the ‘shirt off his back’ to help a friend. It is noteworthy that in his last difficult months his friends rallied to assist in every way that they could.

Dick was cremated on the Island of Ilo Ilo. His ashes will accompany his wife wherever she travels. [Currently in New Zealand].

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