Oral History

Laurence Wood

Interviewee: Laurence Wood
Interviewer: Justin Rizen
Floyd, Virginia

Various oral history recording media and period resources.

  • 52-minute mp3 audio
  • mp4 digital video
  • 17-page transcript
  • catalog record
  • candid photos
  • student short films: “Life Lessons,” “Laurence Wood – WWII”
  • published WWII DVD “Front Porch to Front Lines”

Laurence Wood, a long-time, Floyd funeral home director, was an airplane mechanic with the Army Air Forces during WWII. He describes experiences from his service time in Panama, his duties, and working among the native people. Wood had been granted two deferments as an embalmer and funeral director when he volunteered for service.  There were no openings in the Army Graves Registration Service-Mortuary Section, so he entered the Army Air Forces.  By observing others, he learned the skills of an airplane mechanic and eventually became a crew chief.  He was stationed in Panama where native Panamanians “mowed lawns” on the jungle base with machetes, and a weekend pass meant a train ride to Panama City.  Wood explains the plane maintenance schedules and recalls an encounter with an officer that almost got him court-martialed but later ended in friendship.  Wood came to Floyd in the early 1940s from Stuart, Virginia, and discusses his childhood and his family connections to to Woods Gap via his fourth-great grandfather’s arrival (Richard “Dickey” Wood, 1769-1859).

4-F, 1-A, draft board, Graves Registrations Service, Air Force, Gunnery School, Southern Railroad warehouse, Sloppy Joe’s, sixteen-cylinder Pratt and Whitney, radial engine, Panamanian labor force, K.P. duty, San Blas Indians, Burness Frith, Scots Irish, plane, prop engines, mining camp, embalmer, B-57, P-40s, P-37s, patriotism, V-J Day
Bio Sketch

Laurence Hale Wood (1917-2016), was born in West Virginia, where his father was superintendent at a mining camp, but raised in Stuart, Virginia, coming to Floyd County in 1940 to work at May Funeral Home.  Mr. Wood eventually purchased the business and ran it as Wood Funeral Home well into his nineties.  A graduate of Randolph-Macon Military Academy and Randolph-Macon College, he was a veteran of World War II, serving in the United States Army Air Corps. He was married to France Brodie Wood and was an active member of many civic organizations in his beloved Floyd County, including the American Legion, the VFW, the Lion’s Club, the Masonic Lodge, and the Rotary Club. He was a member and former deacon of Floyd Baptist Church.


The WWII-era interview series was directed by the Floyd Story Center at the Old Church Gallery, where the complete archives are held. The project was guided by a collaborative community-university-public school partnership with Radford University Sociology and Anthropology professor Dr. Melinda Bollar Wagner. Laurence Wood’s WWII-era interview was conducted by members of the Roots with Wings project at Floyd County High School. The nine-year WWII series, 2007-2015, was compiled into a DVD set and biographical booklet with thirty-eight student films. Generations will be enriched by the recordings of all who shared their memories. Thank you all.