7830 John Wood: Persistence Paid Off
By: Steph Ochej
Life’s journey is rarely laid out in a short, neat path. When the unexpected happens it creates twists and turns in life’s path, and just as the path can change, so do one’s dreams and goals evolve. Once those goals are reached, one doesn’t feel sorry or sad that the original plan wasn’t followed and that the original goal wasn’t achieved. Instead one feels proud of the success in maneuvering life’s rocky path, and is thankful for all that the bumps taught along the way. 7830 John Wood’s story is exemplary of this.
Growing up in Oakville, Ontario, Wood joined first the army cadets as a young teenager, and then the air cadets. “My dad had been in the army and I decided that I liked the discipline of it, I liked the uniform, I liked the fact that you could go places and do things that you wouldn’t normally be able to do,” he explains. By the time the Ottawa native was graduating from high school, he was looking forward to attending military college, to serving his time in the Forces, and—to getting the heck out of Oakville! “At the time I was a teenager, and my preference was to be as far away from Oakville as possible, which meant I wasn’t going to go to Kingston,” he laughs. A young John couldn’t speak French, so CMR wasn’t really an option. He decided to put down Royal Roads as his first choice for schools and arrived in the fall of 1964.
During his time at Royal Roads, Wood was involved with several sports: he was the goalie on the college’s water polo team, in addition to being on the soccer team. “I played water-polo team pretty well and soccer very poorly,” the RRMC alumnus chuckles.
One of his funniest memories from his time spent at the college stemmed from the somewhat unusual behaviour displayed by RRMC’s junior cadets. “At the time, RRMC had a tradition that when the juniors found out that the seniors had a birthday, they would raid his cabin and throw him in the shower,” he begins. So, in his second year the senior cadet expected the same treatment on his birthday. “I had gotten myself in some trouble, and I was on confinement to my cabin,” the ex-cadet continues. The junior cadets did show up at his cabin that night, but not to toss their senior into the shower: “The juniors came in and brought me a birthday cake and we had a little party,” Wood sniggers mischievously. “They figured, you know, if the senior could get into trouble then he wasn’t that bad.”
Then, upon his arrival at RMC, a twist in his path: “I had a disagreement with the military about my suitability for continuing to be a member of the Canadian Armed Forces. By mutual agreement I left the college at Christmastime in 1966,” Wood explains.
Where some may become downtrodden and give up, this young man picked up and carried on down. During his first two years at RRMC, studies were general, but by the time he had completed his first semester at RMC, Wood was very certain he wanted to go into engineering. He transferred across the water to Queen’s University, and luckily for him, he was admitted into the middle of the second year of the chemical engineering program. He graduated from Queen’s with his degree in chemical engineering in 1970— a little off schedule, and not exactly as he had planned, but a success to be proud of, nonetheless.
After earning his degree the Queen’s graduate worked from one end of the country to the other, starting first in Montreal working for an oil refinery. “And then I was looking for bigger and better things so I went down to a brand new refinery in Newfoundland that was called the Newfoundland Refining Limited,” he explains. While in Newfoundland he lived in the tiny town of Come By Chance, which is so small that, according to Wood, “there’s more people that live in the frigate than live in Come By Chance.”
After having his fill of the small Newfoundland town, the refinery worker moved out to Edmonton and began selling in the refining industry. After working for various companies in Edmonton, he moved to Calgary in 1980 to be a partner at R.T.M. Engineering. After having hopped around for the decade after he had graduated from Queen’s, Wood settled in Calgary for the next 29 years.
While in Calgary, the engineer worked in several managerial positions at various companies, including Lavalin and Siemens Canada. During his time there life gave him another surprise, and this one of a decidedly better nature: his wife! “She’s from Holland. Her brother lived in Fort McMurray, she came to visit, fell in love with Canada, went back to Holland, quit her job, got her immigration papers, and came to Canada,” he explains. “I was calling on customers in Fort McMurray and I met my wife there. She was actually working for one of my customers,” Wood continues.
Six years ago, while still working at Siemens Canada, he was asked to transfer to Vancouver by the company. “Our kids and our grandkids all live in the Vancouver area, so it’s nice to be closer to them,” he says. Then, about two years ago Wood made the switch from chemical engineering to electrical engineering and started his own company, West Wood Enterprises. “It’s an electrical manufacturer’s rep company, which means I sell products and services on behalf of a number of companies,” he elaborates.
Today, the West Wood Enterprises president still keeps in touch with several people from his military college days, in particular 7818 Griff Tripp and 7774 Sam Lowrie from his Royal Roads days. This is surely a testament to the camaraderie built and fostered between cadets early on, which Wood is so thankful for. Despite having gone down different paths, that bond lasts a lifetime.
“If anybody is considering the military colleges and the military as a career, they would find that it’s a fun thing to do, it’s a lot of hard work, but it’s also very, very rewarding,” he says with conviction. “Everyone that graduates, or everyone that in my opinion, even attends a military college is already successful,” he continues. “[Given the rigorous application process for military college,] we were successful before we started, and all of us in our own way ended up being very successful.”
“I’d like to think that having attended military college…is a very integral part of who I am, and my personal success over the years.” So, though John Wood’s experiences with the military colleges may not match up with all of the others, they coloured and shaped his life’s journey. His story is an unconventional one, but it’s one of great success.