I went to a fundraiser last Friday night for the Mr. and Mrs. L. Dexter Woodman Scholarship Fund. It was held at The Essex Room at Woodman’s. Woodman’s has been around for 100 years and the Essex Room (known also as the Function Hall, or the Hall, or out back) for nearly half that time. I mention this because not a day goes by that someone says to me “I had no idea this building was even here.” I guess I understand why people would not know it was here, unless you were coming here for a reason and let’s face it the main reason people come here is for the fried clams, steamers, lobster and other shellfish on the menu. People are so excited to be coming to Woodman’s to eat, that they have blinders on to anything and everything else. They keep their eye on the prize and nothing else matters.
The Essex Room was decorated to the nines for this fundraiser, which has been providing scholarship money to deserving students for the past 25 years. There was a lot to celebrate last Friday night. It was more than just acknowledging 25 years of giving; it was an evening about celebrating Dexter and Gini Woodman (Mr. and Mrs. Woodman to those of us who are still too afraid to call them by their first names) and what they stood for; community, loyalty, tradition and above all else, family. The idea of family is what stood out in my mind about the fundraiser last Friday night. You felt it as soon as you walked in the front door of the Essex Room to be greeted by a flurry of people welcoming you. Where everybody knows your name and it is not a bar in Boston. You look around to see employees in tux shirts, black pants, bow ties and aprons scurrying around to make sure everything is just so. Why? Because when you take away the fried clams and clambakes, you are left with family. The importance of family is something that has been passed down from generation to generation starting with Chubby in 1914, then to Dexter, then to (in no particular order) Judi, Cyn, Patti, Larry, Stevie, Dougie and Geoffrey, then to their children, then to their children’s children and so on and so on for 5 generations.
There is a heartbeat through the room that is palpable. Is it those who are no longer with us looking down and laughing? Or is it the fact that you have five generations of Woodman’s either attending the event, planning the event, working the event, or greeting attendees at the event. Cynthia was surrounded by her grandchildren to celebrate her 70th birthday. You could feel the love and pride they feel for her, she feels for them and the whole family feels for each other. You become a part of the family at these events, whether you realize it or not. Once the thank you’s and the Happy Birthdays were given, the music started and the the party took on a life of its own. There was singing, laughing and dancing…lots of dancing. What is the expression “the family that dances together stays together”? The Woodman’s are the poster family for this saying with no exaggeration. This family LOVES to dance! Looking out over the sea of people, you see all the generations (#3, #4 and #5) of Woodman’s dancing the night away with each other and anyone who will dance with them. Sometimes you don’t even have a choice. You just get swept up in their enthusiasm. No-where else on earth will you see Cynthia (gen #3) dancing with Axel (gen #5), or Wendy (first born of gen #4) on stage with Erica (last born of gen #4) singing along to their favorite Meatloaf song “Paradise by the Dashboard Lights” as Dougie (gen #3) and Maureen (married 30+ years to Dougie) look on with beaming pride and celebrating that their daughter Erica (gen #4) was onstage entertaining the crowd. This is what the Woodman’s do; they celebrate each other and everything in life and in death.
This was so much more than an event celebrating 25 years of helping students further their education. This was a night honoring Mr. and Mrs. Woodman (still cannot call them by their first names) two people, who with quiet, understated thoughtfulness, made everyone feel like they had something to celebrate. Two people who shared their lives, their recipes, their love, but most of all they have shared with us their most personal of items, their FAMILY.