In 1986, after a stint as John McCain’s Finance Director for his first U.S. Senate campaign, I found myself unemployed and not wanting to return to my native Midwest with my tail between my legs. Early in the Spring of 1987, there was a job opening for a government relations position at the Mesa Chamber of Commerce. I loved living in Arizona and the horizonless opportunities that the landscape bespoke of, but doing odd jobs here and there wasn’t inspiring much confidence back home where my parents were fretting over what I was doing in this faraway land.
I can’t remember how I heard about the job, but I do remember talking to Grant Woods about it. I had had gotten to know Grant during the campaign and asked if there was anything he could do to help. He put me in touch with his father, Joe, who subsequently introduced me to Bob Evans. Both Joe and Bob were East Valley legends – self-made men, who were iconic figures in the growth and development of the region. Joe and Bob made sure I received an interview. The rest is history.
I’m here today, blessed by these two individuals who saw some promise in kid who still needs lessons in humility and grace. Joe Woods, in particular, was blessed with an abundance of both of those virtues.
This past week, Joe’s only son and child, Grant, gave a moving and memorable eulogy to his father. Grant spoke of his memories as a very young child as his father would take him water skiing in the chilly waters of Arizona lakes. You see, Joe didn’t just throw Grant in the water and tell him to ski. Joe held Grant as he skied, a warm embrace for his son in the cold water. A remarkable metaphor of fatherhood from a man who knew how to be a father to many.
As Bob Robb wrote in his Sunday column, Joe Woods was a special man. He and many people like him made this Valley what it is today. Personal character counts. I was blessed to have met Joe. Because of him I am here today, having learned this business from Bob Robb when I worked for him at his agency after leaving the Mesa Chamber of Commerce and before I went to work for Grant Woods as his Director of Government Affairs in the Arizona Attorney General’s office.
To be sure, there were many tough times between those days and today, but it is the relationships with virtuous people we form along the way – the ones that endure the test of time, through the good times and the bad – that form the dense fabric of a good life.
Thank you, Joe, for being there when I needed you, when the community needed you, and when your church needed you. Thank you for serving our God and being such a fine example for the rest of us. God’s Speed to Joe Woods.