Monroe Edward Wood, 80, formerly of Harrisonburg, passed away Wednesday, July 27, 2022. He was head groundskeeper at Eastern Mennonite University for 42 years, from 1963 to 2005. (Courtesy photos)

In Memoriam: Monroe Wood, head groundskeeper, 1963-2005

Monroe Edward Wood, 80, formerly of Harrisonburg, passed away Wednesday, July 27, 2022, at Envoy Nursing Home in Staunton. He was head groundskeeper at Eastern Mennonite University for 42 years, from 1963 to 2005. Much of his life was spent in and around the adjacent neighborhood, where he was known affectionately by many as the “Mayor of Park View.” Many folks remember Wood’s thriving garden just a block north of campus, and how they saw that same care and nurturing applied to the university grounds.

Ed Lehman, EMU’s director of facilities management, remembers Wood’s great skill with any plant: “He could make things grow,” was how Lehman put it.

“We often joked with Monroe that he could grow grass on a bowling ball,” said Henry Bowser, fleet and equipment coordinator, first met and worked alongside Wood as an undergraduate in 1991.

“My memories of Monroe Wood are many but the most outstanding was how meticulous he was about plant care,” Bowser said. “If you ever helped Monroe prepare for planting grass you soon learned that preparation was the key and no rocks, sticks, or clumps were left behind. Plenty of hand work and no shortcuts. Then fertilizer, seed, and no shortage of water. ” 

Lehman also recalled Wood as the “house expert” with grass. “He prepared the soil, selected the seed, raked it in with the fertilizer (if a little was good, a bit more was better) and carefully covered the seed with straw and plenty of water. He liked to proudly point out the turf around the campus that he had nurtured.”

With Nevin Bender, Wood was also at times responsible for recycling and trash removal on campus, both key responsibilities in keeping campus clean and EMU on track with sustainability goals, Lehman said.

Eldon Kurtz, Lehman’s predecessor in the role, also remembers Wood often shared his award-winning tomatoes grown in his “impeccable” garden.

Wood was also well-connected around campus and often came away from his early morning breaks with a select group at the Snack Shoppe to share good information about new developments “in the administration, church or politics, Kurtz said. 

The following is from his obituary.

Mr. Wood was born in Albemarle County on July 18, 1942. He was raised in the Beldor area of Rockingham County. He was the son of the late Lewis Richard Wood and Liddie Margaret Shifflett Wood. He was also preceded in death by his brothers, Leo Wood and Lewis Junior Wood; and four sisters, Edith Henry, Viola Wood, Glenna Steele and Ruth Dombaugh. He was the last surviving member of his immediate family. On Sept. 16, 1961, he married Charlotte Lorraine Weber Wood, who survives. Also surviving are two sons, Kenneth R. Wood (Rebecca) of Grottoes and Sheldon J. Wood of Penn Laird; one daughter, Sharon W. Grogg (Larry) of Broadway; and four grandchildren, Taylor G. Erickson (Scott), Lauren Wood, Tanner Grogg, and Whitney Wood.

Mr. Wood was employed at Eastern Mennonite University as the head groundskeeper. He was a dedicated employee and enjoyed making the campus look beautiful. He retired after 42 years of service. In addition, he was an avid gardener and he was blessed by God to have a very green thumb. Gardening was his lifelong passion. He attended Peoples Baptist Church of Penn Laird in past years.

The family would like to give special thanks to the staff at the dementia care unit at Envoy Nursing Home in Staunton, where he resided for the past four months and to the caring staff of Kindred Hospice.

In lieu of flowers, consider making a donation to The Dementia/Alzheimer’s Awareness Foundation or the Peoples Baptist Church, 3523 Spotswood Trail, Penn Laird, VA 22846. A funeral service was Saturday, July 30, 2022, at Kyger Funeral Home in Harrisonburg with Pastor Richard Forsythe officiating. Interment followed at Eastlawn Memorial Gardens.

Join the Discussion on “In Memoriam: Monroe Wood, head groundskeeper, 1963-2005

  1. Grateful for Monroe’s big hand(s) in making the EMU campus grounds so beautiful for so many years!

  2. I lived on the same block as Monroe “The Mayor” for a few years, and remember how dedicated he was to his garden, specifically I remember him telling me about his sweet potatoes. When I was on crutches for a while, he mowed my lawn without being asked (though perhaps he just couldn’t stand the sight of it 😂). He always had a story to tell, I appreciated reading more about his life.

  3. My sympathies to Monroe’s family. I was a work study student alongside Monroe in the early 90’s and I appreciated his wit, smile and steady pace. Working with Monroe and Nevin was often more insightful than some classes. We didn’t sprint for any task but paced and steady we got jobs thoughtfully done. His talent for gardening was inspiring. Monroe’s decades of service are not to be unsung. He and his vocation made EMU bloom. Thank you Monroe.

  4. On the occasions when I walked or biked to campus past Monroe’s house he was always up for a conversation if he happened to be in his yard or garden (which was usually the case). It seemed unique to me that he spent time after work doing such similar tasks on campus. He and his colleagues contributed much to the beauty of the campus. RIP.

  5. Since I live just a few blocks northwest of Monroe’s house, we had many opportunities for street-side conversations while I was walking to or from campus. I can attest that Monroe was equally interested in the faith and spiritual nurture of the EMU campus community. I valued his interest in this emphasis and our exchanges of ideas, perceptions and desires. He will surely be missed in the neighborhood.

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