Friends, family remember longtime Vestaburg educator

By Kelli Ameling • Last Updated 7:20 pm on Friday, March 09, 2012

Keats Wood Timeline

1926: Born in Edmore.
1944: Graduated from Edmore High School.
1948: Married Neoma P. Oberst.
1948: Began career in education as a teacher and coach.
1950: Instrumental in starting and coaching Vestaburg’s first football team.
1950s and 1960s: Taught social studies, government, history, world history, economic and coached all four sports at Vestaburg High School.
1950s: Became athletic director and considered “dean” of Montcalm County coaches.
1969 to 1970: Became principal at Vestaburg Middle and High School.
1970 to 1985: Served as superintendent of the Vestaburg School System.

Keats Wood

VESTABURG — From an athlete, husband and father to a coach, teacher and superintendent, friends and family remember how one man shaped the community of Vestaburg.

Keats R. Wood, who spent his life teaching, leading and coaching others and making a difference wherever he went, died Saturday at his home.

“He was a great man,” said Larry Koutz, a Vestaburg High School math teacher and close friend of Wood.

The Edmore High School graduate and World War II veteran received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Central Michigan University (CMU) while playing football and lettering in track and field as a pole vaulter.

He carried his passion for athletics back to Vestaburg as a coach and teacher.

During his time as a coach he was “instrumental” in starting the first football team, receiving the respect of having the athletic field named in his honor and later becoming the athletic director.

He was considered the “dean” of Montcalm County coaches when he stepped down as coach.

In the 1950s and 1960s, Wood taught social studies, government, history, world history and economics.

On top of being a coach and teacher, he also drove school buses.

Wood went on to serve as principal of Montabella Middle School and then at Vestaburg Middle and High School, where he later became superintendent.

“He’s responsible for Vestaburg (schools) still being here,” Koutz said.

Vestaburg Community Schools was in as good as shape as anyone else because of Wood’s leadership, he said.
Koutz was hired into Vestaburg schools 41 years ago by Wood. They attended church together and become quite close over the years.

Some of Koutz’s favorite times with Wood were when they sang together in their group, The Backwards Brothers.

“He had a great sense of humor and he was fun to be around,” he said.

At school, Koutz remembered Wood had a very cluttered desk, but knew exactly where everything was at. He said if there was anything that he needed done, Wood was on top of it to get it done.
“(Wood) made an impact,” he said.

Outside of work, Wood enjoyed bird hunting, fly fishing, gardening and sports, including the Big Ten Conference, and was a fan of Michigan State University (MSU) football where he held season tickets with his son Brian Wood.

Wood’s daughter Jana Wood said spending time with her father at MSU games was something she enjoyed. In preparation for her father’s funeral, Jana Wood said she got out some old pictures of her father from games they had attended together. She said during the MSU home game against Norte Dame, when MSU won in one of the last plays, she had a couple pictures of her father.

“He was in a yellow poncho. I don’t remember him wearing that,” Jana Wood said laughing. “There is one where he is looking at the camera, smiling. It’s a good one.”

Jana Wood attended Vestaburg while her father was superintendent. He was able to give her a diploma on graduation day.

“It was nice,” she said of having that experience in one of her first major milestones.
One of Jana Wood’s earlier memories of her father is when he took her and her two brothers to CMU to watch gymnastics and track and field events.

“Those were fun times,” Jana Wood said. “It was really cool to have that experience early on as a child.”
In the fifth or sixth grade, Bruce Wood said he was practicing pole vaulting in the backyard and trying really hard to make a certain height. He was not having much luck and would have about a 20-foot running start. His father watched and “criticized” him on technique, Bruce Wood recalled.

“I fired back and mouthed off and said ‘Let’s see if you can do it,’” he said. “He grabbed (the pole) and cleared the height effortlessly in about three steps. I was speechless.”

Bruce Wood said that is who his father was. Keats Wood did not ask someone to do something he had not already done.

“He led by example, that was his essence,” Bruce Wood said. “This is the perfect example of that.”
Funeral services for Keats Wood will be 11 a.m.  Saturday at Vestaburg High School in the gymnasium. Pastors Tom McNerney, George Showers and Mike Steere will be officiating.

The family will receive friends at a visitation  from 2 to 4 and 6 to 8 p.m. today, at Vestaburg Church of Christ.

“He will be sorely missed,” Koutz said.

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