Alma Ward Wood

WoodAlma Ward Wood, 99, on December 14, 2020, in Pacific Grove Calif. Alma was born on July 19, 1921, the youngest child of five to Reuben and Myrtle Ward in Lindsay, Calif. Olive growers in the Central Valley, her parents instilled in Alma a lifelong curiosity.

Alma attended the Highland School of Nursing in Oakland, Calif., in 1940–43. From 1944 to 1946, she served in the U.S. Navy as a nurse, stationed on Mare Island, Calif., and in Priest Lake, Idaho. Alma became a Quaker following WWII, having witnessed the suffering, futility, and destruction caused by war.

Alma attended the University of Chicago and Stanford University. She met Edward Wood while in college. Shortly after marrying in Carmel, Calif., in 1949, she and Ed spent a year in Mexico engaged in service work for American Friends Service Committee.

After Mexico, Alma lived on the east coast for 30 years. She and Ed had three children: Susan, John, and Nancy. Alma never left nursing and gracefully navigated the many challenges of home and work life. She and Ed divorced in 1973. Alma earned a master’s degree in education from Johns Hopkins University while a single mother. She taught nursing at the Helene Fuld School of Nursing in New York City, and in the Adult Education Program in Baltimore City Schools; she was the public health nurse for more than 40 daycare centers in Baltimore; and worked as a nursing supervisor at an inner-city hospital in Baltimore amidst the racial tensions of the 1960s. For many years she was camp nurse at Hawkeye Trail Camps in the Adirondack Mountains. Her smile and energy are remembered fondly by many campers.

In 1975, Alma moved to Pacific Grove, Calif., where she lived for 45 years. Alma was an active member of Monterey Peninsula Meeting in Carmel. She supported the Peace Center and participated in Quaker meetings at the Soledad prison.

Alma served as a public health nurse with the Monterey County Health Department from 1976 to 1988. She was responsible for implementing and coordinating the county’s immunization program for kindergartners. She set up AIDS clinics and was active in public education on the AIDS epidemic.

The beauty of Monterey County captivated Alma. Her free time was spent scanning the night sky with the Monterey Institute for Research in Astronomy, whale watching, bird watching, hiking, tide pooling, or puttering in her garden. She enrolled in night classes at Monterey Peninsula College; volunteered at the Carmel Bach Festival, the Peace and Justice Center in Monterey, and at a free health clinic in Seaside; and took up tap dancing in her 60s, performing at the opening of the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

For more than 20 years following retirement, Alma traveled and worked overseas as a nurse. She volunteered in hospitals in India and Uganda, researched pink river dolphins in Brazil and lemurs in Madagascar, assisted in a medical clinic in rural Nigeria, wandered through Kenya hitching rides where she could, toured the great mosques of Iran, explored the mud-brick city in Mali, birded in Gabon, went on safari in South Africa and Tanzania, trekked in Nepal and Bhutan, visited Central Asia, and was a guest in a nomad yurt in Mongolia. Her small apartment was crammed with artifacts from many of the 85 countries she visited during this period.

Alma made friends easily. Her willingness to take the world as it is and not judge others made it impossible not to like and trust her. Friends around the world were saddened to learn of her death.

Alma is survived by three children, Susan Wood, Nancy Wood (Hans Brinker), and John Wood (Kimberly); and six grandchildren.

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