Joseph Solomon Wood Sr., a retired IBM executive and McDonald’s restaurant owner who was a decorated Korean War veteran, died of arrhythmia-related heart disease Oct. 23 at the Gilchrist Center in Columbia. He was 86 and lived in Columbia.
Born in Philadelphia, he was the son of Albert Bryant Wood, a waiter and bartender, and his wife, Rosa Elaine Rhem, a homemaker.
His grandfather, William Wood, was a former slave who fought for his freedom during the Civil War in the 20th United States Colored Infantry. He is buried in a New Bern, North Carolina cemetery, with a Civil War marker.
“My father was the youngest of 12,” said his son, Stanley Wood, a Columbia resident. “As a child, Joe received his religious training in the Presbyterian Church. As a youth, Joe enjoyed both watching and playing baseball. In fact, at 86, Joe was still working on his swing.”
As a young man, Mr. Wood followed Negro leagues baseball. He later was a Philadelphia Phillies fan.
His son also said, “The most important lesson he learned from his forebears and passed on to his children is, ‘It’s not where you start, but where you finish.’ The second was to remain ever humble.”
Mr. Wood attended Philadelphia public schools and dropped out to join the Army. He received training at Fort Benning, Georgia, and was assigned to Korea. A paratrooper, he made numerous jumps. He was wounded by shrapnel and was awarded the Purple Heart and a Korean Service Medal with a Bronze Service Star.
He spent six months recuperating in a hospital in Japan.
After leaving the military Mr. Wood graduated from Northeast Philadelphia High School and earned a degree in accounting from Temple University’s business school in less than three years. He held jobs with the Post Office, the Philadelphia city government and the Philadelphia Navy Yard.
Mr. Wood was an early African American systems engineer at IBM. He took executive education programs at Stanford and Harvard universities, and was assigned to Princeton University where he worked in information technology.
He moved to Columbia in 1977 and retired from IBM in 1988. He had assignments in Cranford, New Jersey, and Poughkeepsie, New York. In 1987 he returned to Maryland and worked in its Baltimore office in the Inner Harbor.
After leaving IBM, Mr. Wood went into ownership and management training at McDonald’s restaurants. He studied the day-to-day food-service operations at restaurants in Baltimore and Silver Spring.
“When he attended Hamburger University in Oak Brook, Illinois, he finished first in his class,” his son said.
He was awarded ownership of a McDonald’s in West Point, Virginia, and a second franchise at Toano, Virginia.
He also flew many hours in small planes based in Newport News, Virginia.
“My father once stated that after learning how to jump out of planes, he wanted to learn how to fly them,” his son said. “His greatest achievement in life was passing on what little he knew to his children so that they might have a better life. ... He taught us the importance of both achievement and service. Also, as a lifelong jazz enthusiast, he embodied the literal and metaphorical importance of the phrase, ‘Keep on swinging.’”
Mr. Wood was a life member of the Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity and the NAACP.
Burial services will be held Friday at the Maryland Veterans Cemetery in Crownsville.
In addition to his son, survivors include another son, Albert Wood of Washington, D.C.; a daughter, Stephanie Wood of Baltimore; 15 grandchildren; and several great-grandchildren.
Mr. Wood outlived two wives, Barbara Elaine Robinson Wood, who died in 1994, and his second wife, Vera Marlene Ethengain Wood, who died in 2014. He also survived three of his sons: Joseph Wood Jr. died 2018, Lawrence Wood in 1960 and Stephen Wood in 2014.
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