After 80 remarkable years—many spent traveling the world, the last few spent close to home with family—David B. Wood has embarked on his next epic trip. Barry, as he was known to his family, died on August 31, 2020, from complications related to Parkinson’s disease. He had been living at Clark Home in Grand Rapids, Michigan, after relocating from the San Francisco Bay Area, where he resided for more than 40 years. Barry was a true original, a lifelong bachelor who personified—and passed along to those who were lucky enough to know him—a simple truth: Life may break your heart, but it should also be a marvelous adventure. He was an accomplished sailor, fly-fisherman and outdoorsman who spent time on five continents, three oceans, and many of the world’s most spectacular rivers. A gentleman and bon vivant who was almost comically frugal. And a devoted son, brother and uncle.
Born in 1940 in East Grand Rapids, Barry fell in love with the outdoors at a young age, and spent countless hours boating, fishing and camping. The seeds of his self-reliance were planted when his father, also named Dave, died when Barry was 10. He sought solace in the natural world, in a basement workshop where he built his own wooden rowboat, and in books. Barry graduated from East Grand Rapids High School in 1958 and then attended Ohio State University on a Naval ROTC scholarship, majoring in mechanical engineering. His family, many of whom attended the University of Michigan, eventually forgave him for this affiliation, although it was grueling to watch recent UM–OSU football games with him.
After college, Barry served for five years in the Navy during the Vietnam era, deploying on two destroyers. He was the chief engineer aboard the USS Morton, which provided gunfire support for Marines fighting onshore and rescued pilots who’d been shot down over the Bay of Tonkin. Barry concluded his Naval service in 1967 as a Senior Grade Lieutenant, then went to Harvard Business School on the GI Bill. An MBA in hand, Barry moved to Northern California to work in venture-capital financing and, eventually, in real-estate investment and development. He was the president of Terra California, which developed retirement communities, from 1972 to 1984. After Terra was acquired, Barry decided to step back from his hard-charging career. “I’m taking a year off to do the things I always wanted to do,” he said in a company release, citing a fly-fishing trip to New Zealand, a sailing trip to the South Pacific and a climbing expedition to Chile. Instead, Barry retired at age 40 and spent the rest of his life doing the things he always wanted to do. He lived off his savings, smart money-management and a “price consciousness” that often required checking three grocery stores for the cheapest box of cereal. He raced his sailboat, a Santana 35 named “Take Five,” read and collected thousands of books (novels and biographies but also rare editions on Naval history and World War II), and took dozens of fly-fishing trips to New Zealand, Russia, British Columbia, South America, Idaho and Montana. Jim Harrison, one of Barry’s favorite authors, wrote, “In a life properly lived, you’re a river.” Barry was the Madison, the Dean, the Ahuriri, the Kamchatka. He kept meticulous journals of all his travels and each Christmas sent out a photo of himself, taken on a Caribbean flat or remote stream, holding a monster trout or steelhead or tarpon. Although the fish—which he steadfastly released—were huge, Barry’s sparkle-eyed smile always seemed bigger.
Although he was self-reliant, Barry was never selfish. He served meals to the homeless in Bay Area soup kitchens, made generous bequests to libraries, museums and environmental groups, and donated 3,000 of his beloved maritime-history books to a Naval museum. A steward of the environment and board member of the Henry’s Fork Foundation, he treated nature and all of its inhabitants with respect and understood he was a visitor.
Barry was preceded in death by his parents, David and Betty Wood, and his brother, Doug Wood. He is survived by his sister, Betsy (Larry) Willey; and his nephews and niece David (Kira) Willey, Sarah (Brian Schnell) Willey and Dan (Jill) Willey. He will be remembered fondly by eight grandnephews and grandnieces. Memorial gifts may be sent to the Grand Rapids Foundation or to the Henry’s Fork Foundation.
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