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Dr. Woods Abernathy Howard, a longtime physician at the Watson Clinic in Lakeland, father of two sons and loving husband to Jean, died May 14 while in hospice care in Boynton Beach.
He was 99.
Woods devoted his life to helping others while practicing medicine in Uvalde, Texas, and later in Lakeland, where he spent most of his career working as an allergist at the Watson Clinic.
He grew up in the small town of Devine, Texas, south of San Antonio, the son of a pharmacist, and was named for Dr. Woods, the man who delivered him on July 29, 1922.
As a boy, Woods moved around town on a horse named Brownie and had a dog that he named Colonel in honor of Col. Charles Lindbergh.
He bought his first car, a Ford Model T, at age 12 from a local schoolteacher for $25, then sold it back to the teacher a few months later for $35.
Woods enjoyed hunting and fishing and sometimes hunted with an older man who had an arrowhead embedded in his back.
After graduating from high school in Devine, Woods wanted to become a rancher. His mother had different ideas.
She enrolled him at The Choate School in Wallingford, Conn., where he arrived on a Greyhound bus in the Lucchese cowboy boots he worked all summer to afford while other students arrived in chauffer-driven limousines.
While at Choate, Woods became captain of the football team and worked as a reporter for the student newspaper, where he was assigned to interview a woman his classmates joked about because of her homely looks – Eleanor Roosevelt.
Following the interview, Woods said he was amazed to meet a woman who was so plain-looking on the outside but so beautiful on the inside.
While at Choate, one of the Vanderbilt boys who lived across the hall asked Woods if he would dance with his sister during a school dance. Her name was Gloria.
Woods attended the University of Texas at Austin, where he met his wife to be, Jean McPherson. They were married at the Presbyterian Church on campus in December 1944.
Woods graduated from the University of Texas Medical School in Galveston in 1947.
Following an internship in Philadelphia General Hospital and residency in Temple, Texas, the young Navy doctor served his country at the William Beaumont Medical Center near El Paso, Texas, and later at the Marine Corps recruit depot near San Diego, Calif., during the Korean War.
While living and raising his sons in Lakeland, Woods seemed to know most everyone in town, having treated many at the Watson Clinic. He was known for his low-key look when off duty, often wearing Marine fatigue trousers and a white T-shirt with holes in the back.
During the 1970s, he was on emergency room duty at Lakeland General Hospital and was called in around 2 a.m. to revive an overweight man who was in a stupor.
A friend later told him, “That was Elvis.”
He said, “Who is Elvis?”
After retiring from medical practice in 1992, Woods enjoyed morning walks with friends around Lake Hollingsworth and fishing for largemouth bass in the region’s many lakes and phosphate pits.
Perhaps his favorite fishing buddy was the late J.W. Rewis, a Lakeland building contractor. The two enjoyed catching bass and bream using fly rods rigged with top-water poppers.
Dr. Howard’s wife and faithful companion for 77 years, Jean M. Howard, died Dec. 17 at their apartment in Palm Beach County.
He is survived by two sons, James (Bo) Howard and his wife, Pamela, of Houston, Texas; son William (Willie) Howard and his wife, Jean, of West Palm Beach; grandsons Zachary Howard of Houston; Benjamin Howard and his wife, Dakota, of Houston; Samuel and Maxwell Howard of West Palm Beach; and one great granddaughter, Bella Marquez of Houston.
Heath Funeral Chapel in Lakeland is handling the arrangements. No services are planned at this time. Condolences may be sent to the family at Heath Funeral Chapel.
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