Owen L. Wood

20 agosto , 193612 agosto , 2018
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CMDR. Owen Leslie Wood, Ph.D.

Owen Wood died early morning on Sunday, August 12th, 2018 at 81 years of age. Owen was born on August 20, 1936 in Westbrook, Maine. Owen resided at Riderwood Retirement Community with his wife of 56 years Nancy Belden Wood. He is survived by his wife, three children, and 6 grandchildren. A memorial service will be held at Riderwood Chapel on Saturday, Sept. 8th, 2018. Owen Leslie Wood was born to Owen Ellis and Dora Rines Wood in Westbrook, Maine. Owen was the oldest of the Wood siblings, Janice, Merle, Edith and Norman (deceased.)

Owen graduated Magna Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Bates College, Lewiston, Maine, with a B.A. degree in History and Philosophy in 1958. He enlisted in the US Navy and served as a laboratory technician and hospitalman from 1960-1965. He graduated from the Naval Medical School course in Clinical Laboratory and Blood Bank at the US Naval Hospital in Bethesda, MD, and worked as a technician in the Virology Division of the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology at Walter Reed Hospital, Washington, before being assigned to the troop transport vessel USNS General Simon B. Bruckner. He made 12 voyages from the Brooklyn Army Terminal to Bremerhaven, Germany, and return.

In January 1965, he was discharged from the Navy and entered the Graduate School at Yale University where he received degrees on Master of Philosophy (1968) and Doctor of Philosophy (1972) both in Public Health. From 1970 to 1973 he was Assistant Professor of Microbiology at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. In 1973 he activated his reserve commission in the Navy and accepted an appointment to serve as a virologist in the US Naval Medical Research Unit, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Owen was also stationed in New Haven, CT at Yale University in 1977 and Cairo, Egypt in 1979.

In 1983, Owen moved his family stateside to Rockville, MD and lived there until they sold their house in 2014 and moved to Riderwood Retirement Community in Silver Spring, MD.

Owen is survived by wife Nancy of Silver Spring, MD, his three children and their spouses Mark and Jeanie Leslie Estes of San Antonio, Texas, Brian and Betsy Wood Boyd of Dallas Texas, and Andrew and Sheryl Wood of Rockville, MD. Owen was blessed with six grandchildren. Emily, Julie and Mark Thomas Estes; Benjamin Boyd; and, Matthew and Katie Wood. He was loved by his wife’s family and his brother-in-law, Allen Belden of Richmond VA., as well as his nieces and nephews and their families scattered throughout the country.

Owen was very involved in his Church, St. Marks, his sailing club and his train club. He also enjoyed fishing and spent most of August in Maine doing such. Owen loved to fix things and work with his hands. As you can see by the stories people have told about his life, he was an influential teacher and you could always count on him for interesting conversation.

• Hines Rinaldi is handling the funeral arrangements


  • Owen Ellis Wood, Father (deceased)
  • Dora A. (Rines) Wood, Mother (deceased)
  • Nancy (Belden) Wood, Wife
  • Owen is also survived by his three children and their spouses Mark and Jeanie Leslie Estes of San Antonio, Texas, Brian and Betsy Wood Boyd of Dallas Texas, and Andrew and Sheryl Wood of Rockville, MD. Six grandchildren. Emily, Julie and Mark Thomas Estes; Benjamin Boyd; and, Matthew and Katie Wood. His wife’s family and his brother-in-law, Allen Belden of Richmond VA., as well as his nieces and nephews and their families scattered throughout the country.


  • Celebration of Life

    sábado, 8 septiembre , 2018


Owen L. Wood


Bingchen Du

9 septiembre , 2018

I am so so sorry to hear this sad news and felt more sorry to have missed the last chance to say goodbye to Owen. He was a very nice gentleman and I was so glad to work with him for nearly 4 years in the same lab. He took us to the train club, kayaking and fishing. He was always there to help me. We will miss you, Owen.

May you rest in Him!


Susan & Ken Hennessy

7 septiembre , 2018

We were so saddened to hear of Owen's passing. He will be missed by all of us on Basin Road in Windham. Our hearts go out to his family and we will lift you all up in prayer on Saturday. Love Ken & Susan

David Lynch

20 agosto , 2018

Owen belonged to a sailing club and my friends and I were lucky enough to sail with him on occasion, this was usually the first Friday in October. We would meet in Galesville, MD early in the morning, packed with all our provisions for a day on the bay, sailing with CAPT Owen. The first trip I went on was by far the most memorable as Owen was busy teaching us the basics of proper sailing – what our tasks were onboard and how to perform them to perfection.
This was a brisk day on the bay with plenty of wind and two foot seas – ideal sailing conditions, as he would say. On one occasion he explained in very direct terms what our tasks were whilst we performed a tack. The boat would come off the wind, the boom would swing to the opposite side of the boat (only after his command to come about). And then we would proceed to set the sail for the new tack. My job was to pull the slack out of the ropes so the other side could crank it up. Owen referred to these ropes as sheets. As the boat came about, and the boom had swung, a power boat past us and it was filled with a few beautiful ladies out for a day on the bay, just like us…. the slaked sheets where laying at my feet as the boat past us, everyone was busy doing their assigned tasks…Did I mention that some of those girls where very pretty?… when out of nowhere boomed this voice with a thick Maine accent PULL THOSE SHEETS MAN!!! ARE YOU TRYING TO KILLS US ALL!!!?
I could tell Owen enjoyed those trips with us, even though we did not always know what we were doing. He knew how much fun we had on that boat listening to his Navy experiences and laughing at our stories. Happy Birthday CAPT Owen, thank you so much for teaching us the ropes, or sheets and thank you for your friendship.

Chris Nestor

15 agosto , 2018

In the early 1970’s,my brothers and I built a summer house near Nason’s Beach in North Sebago,Maine. Owen and I spent many happy hours at the Northern Virginia Model Railroad Club,reliving fond memories of times spent there(at “the camp” as Mainers would say)
He was a very kind man,who loved his family. He was especially proud of his grandchildren. We will surely miss seeing him on Tuesday nights at the Station.

Merle Wood

15 agosto , 2018

Owen loved to fish when he was at the family cottage on Sebago Lake in Windham, Maine. There was a pond in back of the cottage that was created by the damn. Owen wanted me to go fishing with him to the pond. Once we got to the pond, he decided he wanted to get to the other side and proceeded to into the pond.

I told him that the pond was really deep in places. He assured me that he knew what he was doing. Pretty soon, all I could see was the floating fishing tackle box and the top of his fishing rod. Needless to say, I did not follow him. When he surfaced he said, "I am OK. You were right, I should have listened to you."



A Life Redirected

From Adventures in Philosophy to Adventures in Science
by Owen L. Wood

THOSE WHO KNEW ME AT BATES may remember that 1 was a philosophy major fascinated with metaphysics and determined to enter the ministry. I loved discussions with Prof. Joe and warm personal contacts with him and his family both in Lewiston and at their cottage in Vienna, Maine. I was blissfully unaware of my lack of interpersonal skills and very resentful when Prof. Schaeffer pointed this out to me. A year at Andover Newton %eological seminary forced the issue and I left after 1 h years. Immediately the draft board had me and I thought I had better use the chance to pick up a trade.
The Navy offered Hospital Corps School and a chance for clinical laboratory training, so I put on a sailor suit and eventually landed at the Navy hospital in Bethesda. There in a young adults church group I met Nancy Belden, my wife of 45 years. We were married when I graduated from lab tech school in 1962. I was assigned to the pathology labs at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology and was responsible for grinding my own knife to cut tissue sections. I failed miserably to get a suitably sharp edge (and still cannot!) and was reassigned to the virology lab working on discovering hepatitis virus. The lab was collaborating with the Yale Public Health School and I was able to arrange a graduate school admission when my Navy enlistment finished in 1965. Thus began the adventures in science!

The first science adventure was a misfire. The serum hepatitis virus we had growing in chick embryo cells disappeared when the antibiotics in the culture was changed. It turned out to be a bacterium from chickens. Disappointed, I turned to viruses carried by biting insects where Yale had an entire research department. The viruses were being collected from labs around the world, cataloged and banked as part of a Rockefeller program originally set up to define the extent of Yellow Fever. Part of the research involved photographing the viruses with the electron microscope. The program seemed to me to promise foreign travel and the electron microscope was an irresistible challenge.

The second science adventure involved tragedy. A virus, later to be known as Lassa, was brought in to the Yale unit from Nigeria. The virus had successively sickened and killed two missionary nurses. At first there was no great stir since the unit had handled dangerous agents previously. Then a technician not working with the agent was infected, hospitalized and died in another city. Very soon after, one of the virologists became infected and was saved only after receiving plasma from a survivor. At this point work was suspended and the New York Times front-paged a story about a virus so deadly that research had to be stopped. However, samples already had been killed, preserved and prepared for the electron microscope. And by this time, although still a grad student, I was doing most of the unit's electron microscopy.

I happened to read an article about a mouse virus transmitted to humans that looked like it was filled with grains of sand and therefore was to be called an arenavirus. Imagine my surprise when I looked at the Nigerian virus and saw the same structure! Naturally I took several photographs, which eventually made their way to the department chairman. When 'Ihe New York Times reported the story he offered them my pictures. The Times called about midnight asking my permission to print one, catching me completely by surprise. The photo gave me sole credit, which certainly did not sit well with my advisor, who was responsible for the microscope. The thrill of discovery almost made up for the strained relations.

A virus causing fatal hemorrhage in monkeys at the NIH and in Russia came into our lab for electron microscope examination. I was able to take it on as a thesis project with the intent of continuing research on the agent at NIH when I finished my doctorate. I was able to document the steps in virus formation for Simian Hemorrhagic Fever but lost the position at NIH due to that lab having to absorb senior scientists idled by the closure of the biological warfare program at Fort Detrick. I took a teaching position at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln in the microbiology department and wrote the dissertation. While at Yale I had rejoined the Navy as a reserve officer and learned of the Navy's overseas laboratories. In my third year of teaching, a merger of all the biology programs at the Lincoln campus left very little funding for virology.

I heard that the Navy was looking for a virologist to head their research program on insect carried viruses in the lab in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The Navy offered research funding and adventure. I requested recall to active duty and took the position. My family and I arrived in 1973 when Emperor Haile Selassie was still on the throne. Although there was famine in the north, the countryside was peaceful and travel was safe and pleasant. There were numerous opportunities for field work because the viruses of interest were circulated among wild birds and animals and only occasionally spilled over into people. Teams went out in the countryside collecting mosquitoes, ticks, and blood specimens from birds and small animals, which were tested in the lab for virus isolation and antibody.
Although the mountainous terrain had few roads, the five main roads leading out of the capital led to microcosms of the main ecology types of Africa: rainforest, acacia savannah, and desert. On one trip we mired our Landrover in a creekbed, and had to hike into a plantation to check reports of a yellow fever outbreak. The outbreak was yellow all right but it was due to widespread use of an improperly prepared local drug against tapeworm! Next day when we returned to the Landrover we found that our tracks had been followed by lions. Adventure in pursuit of scientists! The famine in the north eventually led to calls for revolution and the rise of a local Communist movement. Eventually the emperor was overthrown and the Americans were diplomatically expelled. I was escorted through my lab at gunpoint and allowed to remove only my personal effects.

Upon reaching the United States I found the Navy had arranged for me to be stationed at the Yale labs, where I had been sending for final identification the viruses I had collected in Ethiopia. These labs were backup for all the Navy overseas virology and in that capacity I began another science adventure in the faculty lunchroom. Two Navy scientists were assigned to the Yale Arbovirus Research Unit (YARU) and were treated as faculty. It happened that a South African virologist was visiting at the time a report came from the Navy lab in Cairo, Egypt that hemorrhagic disease had broken out and that it was being called Dengue fever. The Navy lab had the virus and it was killing mice and rats in 48 hr! All those present knew the agent was not Dengue for 2 reasons: 1. It killed lab animals much too fast and, 2. The specialized mosquito vectors needed for Dengue were known to be absent in Egypt.

The virus was therefore an unknown and most present remembered Lassa. Yet they decided to ask the Navy virologist to bring the agent for identification. Our South African guest opined that there were only 2 viruses that acted as described: Germis• ton, named for the town where he was bom, and Rift Valley Fever. 'Ille Navy virologist from Cairo arrived Saturday afternoon and by evening we had mice inoculated. A watch schedule was set and I had midnight to moming on Sunday. I woke at 2 hour intervals and at 5 AM found the mice moribund. The unit chairman arrived at 6 AM and together we removed organs and prepared them for testing against Rift and Germiston. Monday morning found the test positive for Rift. Tuesday morning the Agriculture Department arrived and confiscated all our materials to take to their containment labs at Plum Island, NewYork. Rift causes abortion in almost all livestock and is deemed much too dangerous for any but the most secure labs.

The Rift epidemic in Egypt not only caused severe human disease but forced the government to declare a meatless month. Correct diagnosis did allow use of vaccine, which eventually halted the outbreak. Egypt was my next posting and I helped set up both Rift surveillance and a new high security lab. When my Egypt duty finished I re turned to the Fort Detrick containment labs to work on Rift vaccines, both veterinary and human. I remain very grateful for the chance to have served in the international fight against insect borne disease and consider these 2 adventures the highlights of my scientific life, even though I now work on the AIDS Virus a very different and tenacious foe.

Since 1983 the battle has raged and skirmishes have been won but total victory still eludes science. How can that be? As most of you know the blueprint for all things biologic is written in a message using only 4 letters which pair specifically with each other allowing faithful copying of a message. G pairs with C and A pairs with T to form the double chain that directs by 3 letter groupings the selection and order of the 20 different compounds in the chains of proteins. The proteins through their myriad forms do the chemical reactions scientists call "life". The machinery that copies this blueprint in most organisms has a built in proof-reader that removes and replaces inaccurate pairings. The copier in the AIDS virus has no such mechanism and moreover it is very careless in its copy ing. The result is that the proteins of the virus coat keeps changing so that antibodies raised by vaccines won't stick to them, and replication proteins of the virus targeted by drugs are altered so that the drugs no longer jam them. The virus is slowed but not stopped. Additionally, the virus makes its way into the brain where most drugs cannot go. While slowing virus replication by drugs has greatly extended the lives of infected individuals, cures have not been achieved, nor has a single vaccine shown activity against all virus strains. Regrettably, the war appears to be long indeed.

My small role in the fight has been to collect and grow AIDS virus strains from Cameroon so that our molecular biologists could read the changing message of the virus. Cameroon has the most rapidly changing strains. Modern biology has the ability to write a message that will pair with virus message and this pairing allows a very sensitive detection of virus. However it works only as long as the messages completely compliment each other. Since these pairing tests are now used to screen donor blood in blood banks, the FDA must constantly check the tests it has licensed against new virus strains. Prospects for blood safety appear good as long as new virus strains are checked against licensed assays, which are modified as needed.

Prospects for curative, sterilizing drugs appear dim but several drugs are already keeping virus levels at or below levels of detection, although the virus reappears when drugs are stopped. A single vaccine will be possible if and only if an unchang ing area of the virus can be found close enough to the virus surface for the antibody to attach. Most likely several different vaccines will be needed, each tailored to the virus most active in a given area. This will require active AIDS research well beyond the life of our generation.