In Memoriam: Martin C. Woodward


The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution announces with great sorrow the unexpected death May 29, 1997 of Martin C. Woodward at his home in East Falmouth. He was 58.

“Woody” was born in Hanover, New Hampshire, June 13, 1938 and grew up in Plainfield, NH. He graduated from Windsor High School in Windsor, VT, in 1956 with a major in machine shop. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps as an optical instrument repairman from 1957 to 1961, then worked briefly at Rivett Lathed Grinder in Brighton, MA, as a Turret lathe operator from 1961 to 1962 before joining the staff at J.H. Westerbake Corp. in Boston as a machine shop foreman in 1962. Woody and his wife, Bonnie, who works in the Institution’s Safety Office, moved to Falmouth in 1967 from North Quincy. Woody joined the Institution staff August 1, 1967 as a machinist in the Facilities Department, working under the supervision of Don LeBlanc in the Instrument Shop. Woody’s talents were quickly recognized as he and his colleagues were congratulated “for their most capable assistance“ during the 1967-68 ALVIN overhaul and for their assistance in the development and fabrication of several successful instruments for use by science personnel during the following dive season.

As an experimental machinist, Woody designed and built numerous oceanographic instruments for scientists throughout the institution, often using his own ideas, and helped in the design and fabrication of many others. Woody’s unusual care in an instrument’s design, the quality of his craftsmanship, and his ingenuity in its construction and proper functioning were well-known. In the mid 1970s he did all the machine work on a microbial deep-sea sampler and incubation chamber, which required over 500 hours of work, and spent more than 400 hours on a titanium deep-sea sampler, both of which incorporated many of his ideas and were used successfully many times. Following a heart attack and subsequent heart surgery in 1981, he returned to WHOI in May 1982 and transferred to the Ocean Engineering Department to work under Doug Webb. In recent years he worked on many projects as a Senior Engineering Assistant working with Dan Frye in the Advanced Engineering Laboratory in the Applied Ocean Physics and Engineering Department. He also continued to serve as a valuable resource for many at the Institution, working on projects with the ALVIN group and with staff in the Geology and Geophysics Department. He recently began applying new skills in using AutoCad to render a number of “machined” pieces of existing equipment which will have to be duplicated in the future as designs are updated, making that process far easier.

Woody had a rare ability to fabricate instruments from brief sketches and verbal instruction, and served ably as Instrument Shop supervisor in Don LeBlanc’s absence. Colleagues describe him a “a rare breed... as competent a machinist as the best around... unflappable in his attitude... accurate and innovative in applying techniques to make the job better and the output first class.” Dependable and enthusiastic, with a positive and helpful attitude, Woody was always willing to help colleagues by offering suggestions for materials and ways to improve a design.

Woody was an avid skier and cyclist, and was a member of the Falmouth Old Timers Hockey League.

He is survived by his wife, Bonnie, of East Falmouth; three children, Timothy J. Woodward of Westford, MA, Tamara J. Scott of Burlington, MA, and Christine L. Frank of Camp Hill, PA; two grandchildren, Benjamin L. Woodward and Kylie E. Scott; his mother, Bertha (Martin) Woodward of Falmouth, MA; and a brother, David J. Woodward of Malden, MA.

A memorial service will be held Tuesday, June 3, at noon at John Wesley United Methodist Church on Gifford Street, Falmouth. Burial will be private at Gleason Cemetery in Plainfield, NH. At the family’s request, donations in Woody’s memory may be made to a charity of one’s choice.


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