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A friend bids farewell to Woodrow 'Woody' Olds Jr.
A son of Ceres and a member of the Ceres Union High school graduating class of 1958, Mr. Woodrow Wilson Olds Jr. recently passed away. He was taken from his loving family and friends by the ravages of a fast moving cancer. Woody, as he preferred to be called, was preceded in death by his father Woodrow Wilson Olds Sr., and is survived by his mother, Grace Olds, his sister Patricia and children Cindy, Eddie, and Patti. Woody loved his family, with a special love for his mother "Gracie May." He was a good son and father who left this world knowing that his children were successful and happy in life.

Woody grew up in what I call the "golden era of Ceres," the 1950s and 1960s. He lived and attended schools in the Ceres area. He was a popular young man, full of laughing energy, and one who made friends with ease. He placed great value on friendship, especially to those lifelong buddies and friends most close to him. School classmates from an early age, and many now through their late 60s and beyond, considered Woody to be a true man of his word. He was that rare type of friend who would come when called, at any time or place, to help or defend a friend in need. He continued this admirable trait throughout his entire life.

As a young boy Woody enjoyed everything the "golden era" offered. He knew the Tuolumne River flowed a short distance from his family home on River Road. In spite of his mother's best efforts, Woody still managed to get down to the river to fish and explore the banks and river bottom land. He laughingly told me that he was on the river a lot more times than mother Grace ever knew about. However, knowing his mother, I suspect that she knew far more than he thought she did.

Like many of his friends, Woody was an average student, but we all could be good students when required. Most boys our age took great delight in making some teachers earn their pay. Aggravating teachers was almost an art form to us. Had it been a graded subject, Woody and the rest of us would have excelled. In those days the quality of teachers was vastly different from the teachers of today. Our teachers selected their profession to teach, and most were committed to their students. They recognized talent and put up with a certain amount of humorous classroom behavior. To our teachers, such behavior was part of a teaching method designed to let natural talent and student aptitude percolate to the top while the student absorbed the teacher's instruction and the subject matter being taught. Woody, for the most part, was this type of student. While his humorous antics could disrupt a class, by contrast, his personality could and often did, help silence a classroom while placating an otherwise slightly irritated teacher.

Along with our regular group of buddies from Walter White Junior High, Woody entered his teenage years and high school in 1954. By our sophomore year, nature's maturation process had started and all of us began to change. We all added inches and weight, but the physical change in Woody was dramatic. He began to grow into his already broad shoulders and increasing height. With his blond hair now combed to perfection, and his big smile, he soon found that he was attracted to the also maturing young ladies. They in turn, began to realize, there was more to Woody than just his hair, sense of humor and ability to dance, he really had personality plus, and according to them, was a good date. More importantly, Woody was always a gentleman and the girls trusted him.

As he grew and filled out, he was easy to spot above the crowd and on occasion he would become a fight target while cruising Tenth Street or attending a dance, party, or football game, often a fight was in defense of a friend or classmate. These minor skirmishes involved the teenage rivalry that existed between Ceres and the Downey and Modesto High School crowd. Woody was not a bully, but when necessary, he could really handle himself. He jokingly told us - more than once - that fighting was in his blood and that he got his toughness from his Uncle Cecil, a brother of his mother, and a man who Woody loved and admired almost as much as his father.

As we neared graduation from high school, Woody, although still fun loving and adventurous, would at times become pensive, observant and quiet. He appeared to survey situations or the crowd at hand, not with apprehension, but with the intensity, confidence and stature of a big hawk, one with territory to protect. His disarming smile could change quickly and his big dark eyes would grow serious when he sensed potential trouble. We all knew that Woody's eyes could and often did, cause potential foes to back down and reconsider their options. After a potential situation passed, Woody would soften his look and his eyes would again sparkle. His easy laugh and relaxed demeanor would return and always add a measure of humor to the group conversation or gathering of friends.

After graduation most of us went our separate ways, which included the Army, college and eventually jobs and regular work. As children of World War II era parents, we had been raised and taught early on, the connection between working and eating, effort and reward. In the eyes of our parents, being unemployed was not an option, and we all knew it.

Woody remained in the local Ceres-Modesto area except when duty with the U.S. Army Reserves took him to Fort Eustis, Va., for training. He married and became a father. He was always employed locally, and eventually had the privilege of working with and for his son, Eddie, in the construction business.

When Woody's best friend, Jim Miner, passed away, Woody became more withdrawn and those who knew him best, sensed that yet another introspective change had come over him. Woody knew that he had "straddled the fence" of religion for most of his life and in his humorous manner, he often talked and joked about it saying, that all of us would eventually have a decision to make. In the final weeks before his death, Woody made his decision. He listened to his heart and mother. He dismounted his fence on the "right side," and accepted the Lord as his Savior. With his acceptance, Woody made Grace a very happy and proud mother.

Ceres has always been a magnet. Woody and the rest of us seemed to be drawn back and returned time and again to our hometown, especially during the summer months and Christmas holiday period. We enjoyed our bond, and remain proud to be brothers of sort, linked by our common golden era history and the years of growing up together in a small, and then much more friendly Ceres.

In our own way, we all know and accept the fact that Woody is now gone. When future meetings occur, good friends, and family alike, will know that their personal memories of Woodrow Wilson Olds Jr., will remain in their hearts forever.

This article was submitted on behalf of Woody's loving relatives, friends, classmates and buddies.