Consummate Rider, Adventurer and Philanthropist. Gone but Most Assuredly, Never to Be Forgotten!
Our world lost a most valuable Peaceful Warrior on June 13, 2009. Woody (Donna) Woodward, one of the founding members of the Moving Violations Motorcycle Club, a member of the Motor Maids, Inc., Sirens Womens Motorcycle Club of NYC, BMW Motorcycle Owners of America, American Motorcyclist Association and central member of the Women’s Motorcyclist Foundation’s all volunteer army, passed peacefully in her sleep after a valiant battle against ovarian cancer.
Pride Days in Boston and New York will never be the same without Woody and her infamous Rainbow Mohawk which helped to make her one of the most identifiable icons in gay communities and in society at large. Woody was not to be denied. She simply and directly worked her way into everyone’s heart. It did not matter whether your politics were far left, far right or in between. Woody was such an unforgettable, gregarious, loving, giving character; people from all walks of life fell in love with her.
Woody was a motorcycle adventurer and philanthropist of the highest order. As an explorer, she always took the path less traveled. As a philanthropist, she gave of her time helping to raise millions of dollars towards the cures for breast cancer and HIV/AIDS.
We first met Woody in Barnstable, MA on Cape Cod. We were attending a Memorial Day party. Suddenly, we heard Woody, from above, barking orders to a crew of women helping to lay down a layer of new shingles on Lin Weatherby’s roof. That was in 1982.
Over the years, we became aware of Woody’s many talents as a carpenter, painter, wallpaper hanger, chimney sweep, mechanic, tour guide, archaeologist and limo driver.
Over the years we would receive postcards from Woody with postmarks from North Africa, Viet Nam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Europe and Australia.
During the early 80’s, Woody decided Mainland China would make an interesting place to visit. So, she talked herself into a teaching job in the hill country of China. There she taught English to Chinese citizens, many of whom likely now speak English with a Boston cabbie’s accent. Did we mention that Woody was a limo driver… often to the stars such as Lily Tomlin?
Woody often got to her destinations in unique ways. Once, Woody worked on a freighter to travel down under. There she bought a used motorcycle, explored Australia, sold the bike and worked another freighter home.
When Woody turned 50, she sent herself to Viet Nam, again she bought a used bike, this time a dual sport mount. From Viet Nam she traveled solo all over Southeast Asia.
Woody gave her time to many causes; two in particular stand out, the eradication of two devastating diseases. In doing so, she inspired others to do the same. The irony, as a Peaceful Warrior and volunteer staff member for the Women’s Motorcyclist Foundation, Woody was instrumental in helping to raise over 2.25 million dollars to fight breast cancer only to succumb to ovarian cancer.
Woody also worked tirelessly to raise funds and awareness around HIV and AIDS. She was without question, the most colorful ride guard on the AIDS. fund raising walks in Boston and bicycle rides from Boston to New York where she encouraged riders and walkers in her Xena: Warrior Princess, Wonder Woman or Pink Rabbit outfits aboard her green 1970 BMW /5.
Woody did so much for so many through her passion for life on two wheels that, the City of Boston, through its Mayor the honorable Thomas M. Menino declared June 7, 2008, Woody Woodward Day in Boston!
As a dual sport rider on Adventure for the Cures, (see: www.firstgiving.com/adventureforthecures ), Woody had already raised $2000.00 off line to serve as a member of the “Dirty Dozen.” She donated the use of her BMW F650GS for this effort and was also scheduled as a volunteer to work at the International Women and Motorcycling Conference in Keystone, CO August 19 – 22, 2009.
Woody put all of her most recent plans into place knowing full well that her treatment options were shrinking as the malignant tumors were growing, having metastasized throughout her abdomen long before. Despite the challenges Woody faced confronting the monster that is cancer, two weeks prior to her death she was telling us, in reference to the “Adventure for the Cures” campaign, “Well, I may not be able to ride every day or all of any day; but I’ll be there just the same.”
And so Woody will be there, just the same. She’ll ride as a member of the “Dirty Dozen” on Adventures for the Cures – Ride to End Breast and Ovarian Cancers.
Long time friend, Peg Preble, will be carrying some of Woody’s ashes and riding proxy for her revered friend. As the “Dirty Dozen” stops along the way to remember those we have lost, to honor those battling and to renew our pledge to help create a cancer free future, Peg will distribute a few of Woody’s ashes.
We hope you will consider honoring Woody’s legacy by making a donation to the Gynecologic Cancer Foundation and the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation through her page. You can do so by going to www.firstgiving.com/woodywoodward .
Help us share the incredible legacy that Woody has left us. Woody continues to challenge each of us to look beyond ourselves towards the greater good and to live life to the max. As Woody often shouted, at the beginning of ride day, usually at O’ Dark Thirty, “I’m ALIVE, I’m AWAKE and I FEEL GREAT!”
Thank you Woody! You have enriched the lives of so many. You have taught us well by doing it all on your terms.
Ride on Sis!
by Sue Slate
Former Club President, and Avid Rider!
My hair was short; the only person who I’d ever met on a bike was Woody and I had a newly minted motorcycle license in hand. Since my early bike experience was on a Honda 50 when I was nine years old and I was now a street newbie. Woody had taken me on her bike in November to jobs we had on the north shore so that we didn’t waste gas with me driving in my warm car. It was a quick lesson in how many layers of clothing could I wear and still move around as a passenger. Learning to initially “street ride” in the cold is not highly recommended. I learned from the back and by the following Spring after an MSF course I had my own bike.
I distinctly remember Woody coming with me to look at bikes that we found in the Want Advertiser. The first one we looked at seemed fine to me until Woody came back and said, “no way sis, this bike has bent forks.” For whatever that meant to me, I agreed and we kept looking. Finally I got a great deal on a Honda Magna 500 which came to be the crowning moment for me being the first recipient of the “Stupid Drop Award”. Unloading this new bike out of my truck, I not only dropped it over on one side but then proceeded to do it on the other side as its weight shifted as I picked it up. For a moment I wondered whether, this biking thing was going to be a hazard in my life.
Back up six months and there I was at my first MVMC meeting having thrown stones at the window to get in. Hmmm, maybe that was my initiation in getting past the locked door. There were eight people there as I remember, Jackie, Peg, Marjorie, Martha, Pat, Woody and perhaps Terri and Robin. I was only slightly intimidated but I thought ooh, new friends!
For our first ride in the Spring, I was so nervous about not hitting anyone and trying to look cool. Good thing I had a helmet on so that they couldn’t see my face.
Grateful and Humble Founding Mother.
How do you remember the club starting?
In the Spring of 1985 a woman named Pat placed an ad in Bay Windows asking “DOES ANYONE WANT TO RIDE IN PRIDE?? Approximately eight women showed up, rode in the parade and hung out. Plans were made to meet and ride the following weekend, and so on and so on. The idea of starting a club came up fairly quickly. Jackie Adams was very enthusiastic about it and was our very first president. Jackie & I were together at the time and all the meetings/gatherings were at our apartment in West Roxbury.
Did you own a motorcycle?
I wasn’t even riding yet, I was a very contented BOB (babe on back) , but I wanted to be a part of this awesome new group of friends with MOTORCYCLES !! So I volunteered to be treasurer and Pat was secretary. By word of mouth, every weekend more & more women showed up. My guess is we were 15-20 by the end of that first summer. Luckily one of them was a very talented artist, and we had our first logo and tee shirts printed. the club colors came much later.
So when did you start riding?
Now Like I said I was very happy being on the back, I was PETRIFIED with the thought of riding my own, but the Violators would have no part of that. If I loved bikes that much I should be riding my own they said !! So they encouraged, prodded and finally dragged me to the safety course. And thank god they did!!! It was truly a life changing event!!! At the risk of sounding corny, it was like overcoming fears of a lifetime, and it eliminated many many “I Cant’s” for years to come.
How has the club changed?
It’s hard to describe how the club has changed & how’s its stayed the same. I think overall we are weathering the changes well. We will always have growing pains, but growing means we are alive . . . which is better than stagnant & disbanding. I feel we are still fulfilling our mission of promoting women riders, safety , giving back to the community and having fun with each other.
Any thing else you want to pass along?
I am so grateful to be a part of this amazing group. I’ve spent half my life with Moving Violations-how lucky am I !! TAKE IT SLOW AND KEEP IT TIGHT Your grateful and humble founding mother…..or are we grandmothers now ????