I lost my Dad on February 9th this year at the age of 77 and I expressed what most people do when losing a parent– shock, anger, sadness, blaming and so on but in the past few weeks a new awareness has come to me. That awareness is what I gained from my Dad’s life and what he gained from his death. Woody had been diagnosed with terminal cancer and Alzheimer’s weeks preceding his death. So you can imagine the quality of life he was experiencing and the impact on my family, especially my mom and brother who live in South Carolina where dad died. As I had the opportunity to be with Dad for four days the week prior to his death, I was able with Dad to sense a feeling of oneness and closure between us and God. It was very warm, yet sad, and I believe that was the beginning of my letting go and giving Dad to God.
Woody was a carpenter, a master craftsman, who believed and showed a very intense work ethic and the ability to start, build, complete and perfect whatever the project. Woody was a deacon and a man who went with his kids to church, who helped build the church and helped financially and physically the church any way he could. Dad loved the Lord. Woody served in World War II in a MASH Unit as a medic, two of his Army buddies attended the funeral and said Dad was the best medic they ever worked with. Dad was loyal. Woody had three sons: Ronald [writer], Larry, four years my senior, and Eugene, seven years my senior. We lost Eugene in 1955; he was hit by a car when riding his bike. Dad loved his boys and he knew pain.
Woody married my mom on May 22, 1942 and this would have been their 55th year together. Dad was not much on sharing feelings, patience with us, washing and cooking but he loved mom with every ounce of this being and they were truly soul mates.
Woody had fourteen siblings, lost his dad while he was away at war, and had a 7th grade education. However, from this he knew the value of a family, became a man early and relied on hard work instead of formal education.
Dad was extremely proud of my educational accomplishments but one thing I hope he knew was the knowledge he and mom instilled in me about life, love, family, God, discipline, work ethic, faithfulness, friendship, honesty, and what it takes to make a home. What I learned was wisdom beyond any intellect I could ever hope to achieve, unconditional love from God and my family even when undeserved, and hope for the future for me, my family and mankind.I have come to believe that Hope stands for:H- HonestyO- OpennessP- PersistenceE- ExampleMy daughter Carmen is eighteen and her path has been laid. My son Justin will be two on June 16 and I also have another child due June 10. My hope and prayer is that Carmen, Justin, and our newborn will be able to say a few of these things about me when I’m gone.
I love and miss you Dad and tell Eugene hello.
Love Your Son,
Ronald L. Key, Ph.D.
Founder of Woody's Home for Veterans
Woody's Home for Veterans was founded in 2003 in honoring my father and other fellow American veterans like my Dad. "Woody" Establishing the 501c3 nonprofit, acquiring a loan from the bank to purchase the first home and giving the ability to provide a home for our first soldiers.
Our veterans are the fogotten ones. Most remember and support the veterans who return from overseas with an obvious handicap. Our residents came back from their time of service with deep wounds not necessarily visible to the naked eye. Conditions such as (PTSD) Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and depression, both brought about by the horrors of combat, can be devastating and permanently alter a person's life.
We provide a home and safe haven for our veterans. They can interact with one another, feel safe, and continue to receive the care they need and deserve. In 2008, we opened the doors to our second home and currently stay 90% or more.
We are acreditied with the VA hospital. Locally, the VA has over 300 registered homeless veterans in our area and unsure of nonregistered. The numbers continue to grow in every town, city and state.
Our goal is to assist as many veterans suffering from mental health issues and give them a place to call home. We will continue to open more homes as funding allows.