Tommy Wood built a legacy in Vinton

Tommy Wood passed away on October 16, leaving behind a legacy in his hometown of Vinton. He is shown with his beloved wife Karen, grandson Ethan, and son Allen.

Wood’s Service Center in Vinton was recently honored by the Roanoke Regional Chamber of Commerce with the Legacy Award, given to a business operating in service to the community for over 50 years.

In fact, Wood’s is celebrating 60 years in business. They won the same Legacy award four years ago as an “automotive service, towing, and transportation business offering top-quality service to their customers in the greater Roanoke Valley.”

Owner and President Tommy Wood, his family, and employees attended the awards dinner on October 5. Just days afterward, on October 16, Wood passed away after a year-long battle with Melanoma.

The Legacy Award was most appropriate for Tommy Wood, who indeed built a legacy in Vinton. He will be sorely missed by his family, friends, employees, customers, and fellow citizens, many of whom may not be aware of all the contributions that he made to the Town of Vinton.

Tommy Wood was honored with a funeral procession of towing vehicles from across the region through the Town of Vinton on October 20.

Wood was a devoted husband to his “beautiful bride” and loving wife of 45 years, Karen, whom he had known since early elementary school. He still carried her second-grade picture in his wallet.

He was a devoted father to son Allen Wood and his wife Alisha, and to his daughter Ashley Williams and her husband Kellen. He doted on his grandchildren Ethan and Carson Wood, Gage Wilkinson, and baby Nora Williams.

Wood built with his family not just a business, but a stellar reputation– not just in Vinton or the region, but across the country.

Wood was honored with a stately funeral procession of over 60 towing vehicles from across the region starting out at Colonial Downs on Vinyard Road. At the line-up, son Allen thanked all the drivers for coming, saying they may be competitive in business, but today they are “all one for Daddy.”

The procession, escorted by Vinton police, traveled slowly past the Wood’s location on Hardy Road, on through downtown Vinton, and proceeded up Washington Avenue past the original Wood’s Service Center on the way to Lynn Haven Baptist Church for the funeral service. Once they reached the church, two of the huge tow trucks made an arch at the entrance of the church with an American flag.

Trucks from his funeral procession formed an arch at Lynn Haven Baptist Church at Tommy Wood’s funeral service where Pastors Jason Hay and Al Woodie officiated.

Wood’s is a third-generation family business founded by Wood’s parents, Bob and Margaret on Labor Day in 1957. They owned the first gas station in Vinton, close to the present Wood’s Service Center on Washington Avenue. It started as a one-bay, Pure Oil service station and country store. Wood’s now occupies a full block in that location and a second location on Hardy Road.

Wood said his parents “always put customers first; it’s definitely about the people and not just the vehicle.” He and his family have carried on that philosophy in the years since.

Bob Wood and sons Barry and Tommy originally worked together to expand their family business from the small gas station to include an automotive and towing service and auto parts store.

Soon after Bob Wood retired in 1985, two-lane Washington Avenue was widened into the street it is today. The business was demolished because of the highway construction. When there was not room enough to rebuild the automotive service and the auto parts store in one location, instead of leaving Vinton for more space, the sons bought the business from their parents and split it into two.

Tommy Wood developed his auto service, repair, and towing business in the original location; Barry Wood bought a building on Hardy Road and opened the auto parts store. As their reputation continued to spread, there was such a work overload at the Washington Avenue location that a new Hardy Road automotive site was added.

In 1978, the Wood family owned one tow truck. Today they own a fleet of towing equipment, small and large, handling calls 24 hours a day. The Woods have become experts in incident management, helping recover vehicles while traffic still flows, even on interstate highways– a great asset to law enforcement.

The original Wood family business was a gas station on Washington Avenue.

Tommy Wood was a lifelong Vinton resident and advocate for the town. The Woods’ businesses have contributed to the Vinton and regional economy with dozens of employees. Wood spread the company’s name serving as vice president of the Virginia Association of Towing and Recovery Operators and winning multiple awards in the towing and repair industry. He and his son have sponsored many training courses in towing locally over the years

Father Bob Wood was known throughout the community as a smart, hardworking businessman, but also as a generous man always willing to help his neighbor. Barry Wood remembers that when his father passed away, the line of those waiting to pay their respects stretched all the way around the funeral home. Mourners had many stories to relate of how Bob Wood had discreetly helped them in times of need.

That experience was repeated at Tommy Wood’s visitation, which Bobby Strong of the Vinton Oakey’s Chapel said drew one of the largest crowds in memory.

“That was Tommy,” said family member Bootie Chewning. “The funeral reflected on how good Tommy was to everyone, doing things for people that not even his family knew about until they heard people’s stories at the funeral home. Even while he was battling cancer he continued to do for people.”

For three generations, the Wood family has been an integral part of the Vinton community. They donated land from their Woodland Place property to the Roanoke greenway system and a part of their business profits to the High Ground Vinton/Roanoke County monument fund. Several buildings in Vinton bear the Wood family name, including Woodland Square where the Vinton Area Chamber of Commerce is located and the Woodland Place event venue.

His children say that their father loved his community and did everything he could to support it. He will be remembered “for his kind heart, his love for life, and his willingness to help others without ever needing recognition for doing so.”

Barry and Tommy Wood are shown with their original tow truck.

Mayor Brad Grose and Roanoke County Supervisor Jason Peters say that Wood frequently stopped by to talk about local projects underway or proposed, and offered his assistance.

“Tommy Wood was an awesome man,” said Mayor Grose. “He loved his family, his friends, and his community. Tommy was a ‘behind the scenes’ man who did things to benefit the entire community without seeking personal recognition. From personal experience, I know Tommy was a true professional who insisted that every job be done properly. I always enjoyed talking with Tommy and will greatly miss our frequent conversations. He was a man of great integrity and I feel blessed to have known him.  Tommy will be greatly missed by his family, friends, and the Town of Vinton.”

“Our community and my family lost an amazing man,” said Angie Chewning, Executive Director of the Vinton Chamber. “Tommy Wood made the world and our town a better place. His commitment to our community was beyond the call of duty. As a long-time Chamber board member, he was engaged and always willing to help and support our efforts. He will be missed!”

In addition to his wife, children, and grandchildren, Wood is survived by his mother, Margaret Wood; brother, Barry Wood and wife Susan; his sister, Bonnie Short and husband James; father-  and mother-in-law Bill and Jean Chewning; brother-in-law, Billy Chewning and wife Donna, and many nieces, nephews, and dear friends.

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