SOUTH RIVER – A friendship that stood the test of time has come to an end.
COMMITTED TO COMMUNITY.
“We met when we were just kids. We pretty much spent our lives together,” said Les Maeck of his longtime pal Chuck Wood.
After decades of friendship – taking vacations together, becoming business partners, and sharing life’s big moments – Wood passed away on Dec. 4, leaving his family and a cluster of close friends and his best friend Les behind.
A celebration of life was held in South River on Dec. 8.
“I think everyone in South River came out,” said Maeck, noting Wood had strong ties in the community.
Wood was involved with the South River/Machar Fire Department, who supplied honour guards at the funeral service. The Sundridge-Strong, Laurier, Burks Falls District and Magnetawan fire departments covered for Machar, so its firefighters could attend the service.
Over the years Wood was involved in curling and was a past president of the South River Lions Club. Maeck said Wood was all about community.
“He would do anything for anyone and never expect anything in return,” Maeck said.
Wood was an avid hunter and even brought down a moose with an arrow, according to Maeck. Wood loved to travel to their hunt camp near Spring Lake, and even had a hunt camp on his own property at the edge of Machar Township.
He served for three years in the army in the early 60s before joining Toronto’s workforce.
Wood’s ties to the community, and his pal Les, began as a youngster.
Maeck and Wood lived next door to each other on Ottawa Avenue growing up.
“We lived in the apartment above what used to be the Royal Bank (now the credit union) and his dad owned the general store next door and they lived above that,” explained Maeck.
The pair went to school together and played hockey together.
Both boys eventually found themselves working in Toronto in the mid-1960s.
In the big city, Wood worked for Johns Manville, a corporation made famous after filing for bankruptcy protection in 1982 as it faced thousands of individual and class action lawsuits stemming from illnesses employees sustained while manufacturing asbestos-based products, while Maeck worked in the driver’s exam branch at Queen’s Park.
Their friendship never skipped a beat.
“He was the best man at my wedding and I was in his wedding party,” said Maeck.
The two families were side by side for decades, even taking vacations together, as Maeck’s wife Gail and Wood’s wife Doreen had known each other from childhood as well.
May 24 weekend in 1966, the Maeck’s took a trip back to South River and stopped in for gas at Happy Landing service station, which was owned by Maeck’s old friend Jimmy Young and his business partner Bob Fitzsimmons.
Young was working alone and the station was backed up with cars, so Maeck stayed behind to help. Weeks later Young and his partner asked Maeck to take the business over.
Maeck brought his best bud Wood onboard and they moved back to South River permanently.
“We had some good times over there,” said Maeck of their joint enterprise. “We got to know a lot of the truckers.”
Happy Landing was a hub at the time complete with a popular restaurant.
“We had 37 employees at one time,” said Maeck of the 24-7 service station.
Maeck said Wood was ready for any challenge that came along in life, and their new business venture was no exception.
“We weren’t mechanics, but we did a lot of little repairs,” he said. “We even fixed truck tires and did oil changes.”
The restaurant caught fire in September of 1977, and was out of service until the following January. They sold the business ten years later.
“We had been there 21 years and it gets a little rough working 24-7,” said Maeck with a laugh. “I always say we were there 21 years but we worked 31.”
Later, Wood would go on to work in the Public Works Department of the Township of Machar.
“He was very dedicated to that job,” said Maeck. “I don’t think they’ll ever find anyone to replace him.”
Maeck said many of his fondest memories of Wood came from their fishing trips.
“We used to go to Algonquin Park every spring to go fishing,” said Maeck, noting he and Wood had a cabin on North Tea Lake.
“It’s all by water to get there. We used to go two or three times a year,” said Maeck. “I’m going to miss that trip.”
Wood is survived by his wife Doreen, children Shari Stevenson, Bart Wood and Rhonda Harvey, five grandchildren and one great grandchild.