John R. Wood
17 September, 1929 – 4 August, 2021
John R. Wood (Bubba) passed on Aug. 4th, 2021, just shy of his 92nd birthday. It is a sad day but the family celebrates his long and full life.
John was born on Sept. 17th, 1929 in Star City, Arkansas, near El Dorado. Growing up during the great depression helped him learn to be both frugal and resourceful. His father owned a fishing lure manufacturing company and a juke box company, both in El Dorado. John and his one-year older brother Jim also caught the entrepreneurship bug, and had their own business selling model airplanes in the store.
John, Jim, and their cousin Thomas, together formed a trio that was infamous for causing mischief. One of their best shenanigans was when they decided to drive the car when they were around 5 years old. One of the boys worked the accelerator while crouching on the floor. The other two managed the steering wheel. John’s father was on the porch as he angrily saw them coast down the hill in front of the home, before having a minor crash. They were duly disciplined.
The summer when John was 17, he went on the road selling the fishing lures to sporting good stores. That was his first time out of Arkansas, and he travelled to dozens of states. Selling was in his blood.
John was a good student, and began college at Louisiana Tech before a two-year tour of duty in the Navy, shortly after WWII. One of his tours was on an aircraft carrier, which always amazed him for being a floating city with several thousand residents.
After the Navy, he attended Henderson State College in Arkadelphia, Arkansas, where he met and married Wanda. To save money for graduate school, they worked at the local drive-in, with Wanda at the ticket booth and John in the concession stand.
After graduation, they went to the University of Arkansas, where Wanda earned her Master’s in English and John graduated from law school. They then returned to Arkadelphia, where Phil was born and John practiced law with his father-in-law. But after a few years, John decided that law was not his calling.
They packed up and followed some friends who had recently moved to St. Pete, Florida. But on a weekend jaunt, they discovered Naples with only a few thousand residents, and decided that was the perfect place. John’s father was living in Ft. Myers at the time and encouraged him to go into real estate, because he thought Florida might have some good potential.
Wanda taught in elementary school while John did his required one year as an agent. Then, in 1958, they opened John R. Wood & Associates, on Fifth Avenue South. Money was tight so to help offset the $200 monthly rent, they rented a desk to John Gray State Farm Insurance, and another desk to Bob Deason of No-Risk Chemical Pest Control.
There weren’t a lot of houses to sell in Naples, so many of their sales were lots or acreage. In the 60’s, many people were investing in acreage, and flipping the land within a year or two, almost always at a big profit. Thus, land was a big portion of the firm’s sales, although they also sold many homes in the still developing Aqualane Shores, and the newer developments of Port Royal, Coquina Sands, and the Moorings. Commercial sales, such as lots on U.S. 41 in the heart of town, also helped the cause, since they sold for enormous prices of around $50,000.
At that time, Florida was known for some less than scrupulous developers, so John focused the firm on ethics. He adopted a slogan of “Walk on it before you Buy”, so that acreage buyers would know they were not buying swampland. The firm had a number of 4-wheel drive jeeps over the years, available for the agents to show acreage, and the jeep always had the familiar slogan on the side.
John’s legal background was quite helpful as he did property exchanges and many land sales. He passed the Florida Bar just in case the real estate thing didn’t work out, but he never actually practiced law in Florida. The closest he came was a time when the one local judge went on vacation, and he had John fill in for a few days.
The town was still small. Total real estate sales for the entire Naples Board hit a record in 1963 at $4.6 million.(the entire area) John was active in the local board, and served two years as President. He went on to serve as Chairman of the Florida Real Estate Commission, then was President of the Florida Association of Realtors in 1971. In 1981, he achieved the ultimate honor, serving as President of the National Association of Realtors---quite likely the only NAR President from such a small town.
John also set the tone by being very active helping various civic and philanthropic groups, including United Way, the Chamber of Commerce, Boy Scouts, Junior Deputies, the Conservancy, St. Matthew’s House, and many more, helping the small town grow and have the public benefits that government budgets often could not afford.
He received many awards over the years for his services to various causes, especially ones focused on helping those in need. Some of those include the Junior Achievement Hall of Fame Laureate, Hodges Humanitarian Award, and the Naples Daily News Citizen of the Year in 2007.
He mostly retired in the mid 1990’s, but continued to be Chairman of the Board for the real estate firm until his death. Today, John R. Wood Properties continues to thrive, thanks to the focus on service, ethics, and philanthropy that John Wood instilled as Founder of the company, and Naples is one of the most beautiful towns in the U.S. thanks to the dozens of residents like John who set the tone for the area.
John is survived by his son Phil (Mary), granddaughters Corey (Chris) and Nikki, and great grandchildren Hunter and Ryli. Donations in his memory can be made to St. Matthew’s House or Collier County Junior Deputies. Services will be determined at a later time, due to the Covid situation. We know that John is up there telling all his old friends a joke right now!
- St. Matthew's House
Collier County Junior Deputies
P.O. Box 1833, Naples, Florida 34106
A Celebration of Life
Thursday, 14 October , 2021
John R. Wood
11 October 2021
John was definitely an inspiration to me and many others. I am so thankful that I met him in person and learned of his earlier life, the start of his career in Naples, and all that he gave to make our community what it is today. I loved his personality, his great sense of humor, and always willing to help others. He was heaven sent and now returning.
10 October 2021
John and Wanda were as good neighbors as anyone could ask for. Pete (Priscilla) and I lived next door for 26 years. They were always friendly and willing to help in any way. Needless to say, we reciprocated.
We laugh remembering when John somehow made a dent in his Lexus' driver door. Have it fixed? Nah! Just take one of the J.R. WOOD magnetic signs and put it on the door. Voila! Dent no longer visible and extra publicity for the company. He loved that Lexus.
We had a mini- motor-home, class C. Basically it's an extended van. One day John asked us if it would seat 6, which it did. Apparently there was a special event at his church and there were a few ladies that needed help getting to the event. John asked if we would help by letting him use that vehicle to do the transport; of course, we agreed. When John returned the vehicle to us, he was happy as a clam because the ladies apparently thought that was the greatest part of the evening, i.e. being transported in a motor-home.
John and Wanda were the longest lasting and the very best neighbors we ever had.
17 August 2021
I met John quite by accident in 1975...We were flying back to Naples from Miami in one of the "old DC 3's",thru and around several thunder storms, a flight we recalled many times. In those early days, we met often and laughed often about our "northern and southern accents"....My failure to join the firm at John's request and return to Boston stands as my greatest regret but it never has or will deminish the love and respect I have held over these past 50 years for this wonderful kind and caring man....I place John alongside my own Dad , both who were "gentle giants" and a gift to all that knew them......Respectfully.....Jack Joyce
15 August 2021
What a loss. John was a true friend. Even though he will be missed, one can always recall the kindness in his heart for everyone. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Wanda and Phil. May the Peace that passeth all understanding be with you in this time.
Brian and Helen Johnson
11 August 2021
There are so many warm and positive memories of John. Mostly, I remember that no matter what was going on, John always had a kind and encouraging word (and usually followed that up with a joke). He will be missed, but his message of kindness and service will always live on my mind and heart.
10 August 2021
What an amazing man John R Wood was. If you ever meet him you were immediately attracted to his southern folksy style and his quick wit. He was a modern day Hero who championed the causes of the less fortunate and created a very successful family operated company. He was one of the original families in Naples that made our great city and county what it is today. His wife Wanda was as equally impressive as he was. His loss will be felt by many for a long time in our community. I can only hope one day I can be half the man John R Wood was. I send my prayers and love to the Wood Family.