Tom “Woody” Woodruff of Oreland, Chestnut Hill’s “Patriot Poet” who recited his own patriotic poems at every neighborhood Fourth of July celebration, died on Saturday Feb. 2. He was 84.
Woodruff was born on Nov. 6, 1934 in Mt. Airy. He was a long-time resident of Chestnut Hill and later Oreland. He grew up playing and watching sports with his dad, helping him coach neighborhood teams with the Father’s Club (now Chestnut Hill Youth Sports Club), and attending Eagles games at Franklin Field.
At age 13, Woodruff and his parents took a trip out west to visit friends in Wyoming. He was mesmerized by the many landscapes of the United States he passed on his trip, and his love for the open range and blue sky was born. For the next three years back east in Mt. Airy, he was consumed with thoughts of life out west.
He later convinced his parents to let him fulfill those cowboy dreams and he hitchhiked to Wyoming to be a ranch hand at The A Bar A Ranch for two years.
Woodruff met JoAnne Costanza, the sister of his friend Eddie, at a poker game in his house in Chestnut Hill. After the game, Woodruff jokingly told Costanza he won a date with her during a hand of cards. They eventually got engaged, and JoAnne worked and planned the wedding while Woodruff served in the Army in Germany.
There, Woodruff finished his education and got to see the world. Woodruff often thanked Uncle Sam for the life lessons he learned while serving our country, for the sense of patriotism deeply instilled and for the opportunity to shake the hand of Winston Churchill.
JoAnne and Tom married in Our Mother of Consolation church in 1957, and had four children. They have six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Woodruff went to work at Prudential Life Insurance Company, where he stayed until retirement. After retirement, he spent time working at the now defunct Chestnut Hill Newsstand at Germantown Avenue and Bethlehem Pike.
Woodruff remained active in his sons’ sports teams, coaching and officiating at the Father’s Club (CHYSC) and serving as president of the Wyndmoor Bantams football club.
Woodruff also enjoyed taking his children to the Eagles games, using season tickets at the Vet. He also found a way to share his appreciation for the cowboy way of life, becoming a regular fixture at the annual Cowtown Rodeo in Plymouth Meeting. He also had a love for horses and was fortunate to be involved with them throughout his life.
Always an avid writer, Tom often submitted his musings to local papers. His commentary was regularly published in the Chestnut Hill Local. After retirement, he took it a step further and the Patriot Poet was born. Tom became a sought-after orator, delivering original speeches at local schools, historical reenactments and parades. Tom’s passion was to use his colorful and multifaceted life experiences to help educate others on the important events and honorable men and women who shaped our nation.
As the Patriot Poet often said, “Family and our great nation are everything!”
Woodruff was preceded in death by his parents Thomas Russell Woodruff, Sr. and Jean Woodruff (nee Cairns), and his daughter-inlaw Donna Woodruff (nee Toomey). He is remembered with love and laughter by his wife JoAnne (nee Costanza), daughter Gail Johnson (Gerald), son Raymond Woodruff (Laura), son Steven Woodruff (Annie Hermann), daughter Denise McLoughlin (E. Douglas); grandchildren Brooke Rive (William), Carly Johnson, Jake Woodruff, Kevin Doerner, Justin Doerner and Tavish McLoughlin; great-grandchildren Cameron Rive and Juliette Rive.
Family and friends may call on Wednesday, Feb. 13, from 6 – 8 p.m. at Jacob F . Ruth Funeral Directors in Chestnut Hill. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Woodruff’s name to Mobile Minis, a charitable organization that connects children in need with mini horses, at mobileminis.net