Leeds School teacher remembered at Northampton service

  • A pinwheel garden at Leeds school in memory of Denise Wood, a long time teacher who recently passed away. —Gazette Staff/CAROL LOLLIS

  • A pinwheel garden has been created at Leeds School in memory of Denise Wood, a longtime teacher who died Sept. 16. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

For the Gazette
Published: 9/23/2016 4:06:47 AM

NORTHAMPTON — Family, friends and co-workers gathered Thursday morning amid displays of colorful quilts to celebrate the life of longtime Leeds Elementary School teacher Denise Wood.

A third-grade teacher with a passion for quilting, Wood, 63, was born and raised in Northampton, and taught at Leeds for 20 years. She died at home on Sept. 16.

Some of Wood’s quilts were displayed around Blessed Sacrament Church on Elm Street during an emotional funeral Mass on Thursday. The colorful surroundings matched the attire of many at the service, who wore beautiful colors at the request of Wood’s family members.

“She was a great friend, a great colleague, strong, passionate, and just an overall great person to be around,” said Julie Clark, an administrative assistant at the school.

According to Clark, Wood was an exemplary teacher. She said Wood was always seeking creative ways to enhance the school’s curriculum, was a huge advocate for education and an influential union representative.

Students at the school on Wednesday honored Wood with a “pinwheels for peace” art display as part of its celebration of peace day. The school’s marquee reflected the honor with a message reading, “Pinwheels for peace in loving memory of our Ms. Wood.”

Clark said Wood was always finding the best in situations. She was a single parent raising three daughters, and left a positive impact on her children, her students, and her community, Clark said.

One speaker at the service said Wood’s excitement in watching students learn was inspiring. Her loved ones said she would be remembered not only for her teaching, but also her quilting.

Wood, who leaves three daughters, two grandchildren, her mother and two brothers, was a member of the American Quilters Network for decades.

“She wasn’t your typical quilter,” said Clark, referring to how unusual people found Wood’s pieces.

Louise Homstead, a preschool teacher at Leeds School, spoke about her co-worker at the service.

“I knew you as pieces of color sewn together — contained yet flexible, warm and compassionate,” Homstead said.

She said Wood was always a helpful and encouraging colleague, and focused her speech on Wood’s vibrant and colorful personality.

“I will watch for you gathering colors in the foliage … I will look deeply at the kaleidoscopic pieces soundly stitched together and see something new every time I look for you,” Homstead told those attending the service.

Donations in Wood’s memory can be made to the Northampton Education Foundation, P.O. Box 44, Northampton, MA 01061.

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