Lawrence Dexter Woodman-Son, Brother, Cousin, Husband, Father, Uncle, grand-father, great-grandfather, “Deck,” “Grampy” and so much more passed away on December 17th 1987. He was a man of small words and big actions. Grampy’s generosity is somewhat of a legacy today in the Woodman Family history books
Grampy’s parents were best described as, “Always wanting to create a business that they could pass down to their children. In fact, they constantly wanted to provide for everyone. Both of them had hearts as big as the town.” Grampy grew up around acts of charity; it was in his blood-just like the quahogs and softshells.
Grampy was always there to lend a helping hand to his seven children, and their families in time of need. When times were tough in the community, he always knew how to lighten the load. Grampy gave his children and their families jobs, houses, cars, dancing lessons and educations; yet somehow didn’t spoil them rotten! Grampy taught his kids how to work hard and take care of their families. All seven of Grampy’s children are individual parts of him. If you ever get them all together, he’ll be standing right in front of you.
When awarding Woodman’s with the Small Business Award in 1988, a member of the Chamber of Commerce and close friend to the Woodman family Teresa Eisenhauer said, “Gini and Deck not only carried on the spirit of generosity, but as their success in business grew and expanded, so did the scope of their contributions to our community. Their quiet and usually behind the scenes thoughtfulness has without a doubt benefited all in our community either individually, or collectively, or both. Today the Woodman name is synonymous with the word ‘generosity.’”
Leonard recalls Sunday dinners and Monday night feeds in the restaurant with Uncle Deck. After closing the restaurant on Sunday after a busy weekend everyone would get together for dinner. It didn’t matter what they ate so long as they were together. “In the winter we also used to have Monday night feeds every week. We’d get the whole crew together, make stuffed lobsters, and raise a little hell.” Besides providing food for their family, workers and friends, Nana and Grampy were known to donate chowder to all the funerals in town, helping families in times of great need.
Even before we winterized, Grampy sometimes opened for a weekday if we had good weather. And even if he didn’t open, he would still buy clams to keep the clammers in business. He’d have to take them to Ipswich and sell them for less than he had paid for them. He wanted to keep the clammers happy; so he’d buy their clams all winter even though we didn’t need them. He also bought the lobsters when we had no use for them. He took them to Boston to sell. That was good business too. When the lobstermen were real busy in the summer and the lobsters were in great demand, the lobstermen would say, “Look, the Woodmans bought from us all winter, so we’re going to supply them first.”
The opening paragraphs of the newspaper article about his death states that, “L. Dexter Woodman was a quiet benefactor to many Essex residents over the years. Residents recall how Woodman gave them summer jobs when they were young, or had provided Christmas presents when times were hard or helped pay for their college education.” Grampy was his own kind of Santa Claus; instead of red velvet, he wore Hawaiian shirts and plaid shorts; instead of black boots he wore colorful shoes.
Ask any of the Woodman grandchildren about Grampy, and they will tell you the same. “I was his favorite,” they’ll say with confidence. Wendy recalls being a child, asking Grampy, “Can I have a lobster?” He always responded with, “Sure, have two!” He always had a way of making you feel special. I was three years old when he passed away and I still remember our walks, our naps and our songs. Uncle Steve and Aunt Rhonda’s son Nathan read the scripture at his funeral describing Grampy perfectly, “Love is patient. Love is kind. It does not envy. It does not boast. It is not proud. It is not rude. It is not self-seeking. It is not easily angered. It keeps no records of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always preserves. Love never fails.” (I Corinthians 13:4-7) And then Nathan added, “Gramp was love.”
Although Grampy passed away 23 years ago, his charitable spirit continues to affect both our family and the community members of Essex today. The L. Dexter Woodman Scholarship fund was enacted in his name in 1988. The LDW Scholarship Fund now awards just under $30,000 per year to local students. Along with two students chosen specifically for the LDW scholarship, the fund awards additional scholarships through the Massachusetts Restaurant Education Foundation, the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce, Lithfield Nh High Scool and the Essex Lions Club as well as sponsoring 25 honors scholars through the North Shore Chamber of Commerce. To date, a total of $565,000 has been given out over the past 22 years! The money raised for the fund is now generated through our annual Golf Tournament, as well through our many loyal and generous donors.
Ed Holmes, a dear friend of Grampy describes L.D. as, “never forgetting that his family worked for everything they had. He was a benefactor of the noblest kind, as many can attest-from jobs to education, to Christmases’ never to be forgotten.” In this season, we think of you fondly Grampy, and all the ways you made Christmas for us and the town a little bit brighter.