ALAMOSA — Described as a generous visionary who never did anything halfway, Jeff Woodward, 62, died on Wednesday, August 1, from pancreatic cancer.
Woodward passed away right before the annual Beat the Heat BBQ he helped found six years ago and a month before the Early Iron Festival in which he had such an integral part for so many years.
“He just made a huge impact in the lives of many people in our community and he also made a huge contribution to our community with his participation in the infancy of Early Iron all the way through to the current growth spurt,” Alamosa Mayor Ty Coleman said.
He added that he knew Woodward as a friend as well as a community partner, “and he was a very unselfish type of person. He was willing to donate and contribute whenever he had an opportunity to. He will be truly missed, not only by me but by so many people in our community and throughout America, because the Early Iron event had people coming from all over America to participate.”
Coleman said his prayers are with Woodward’s family as they mourn.
Jeff and his wife Melanie have three children and five grandchildren.
Woodward loved his grandchildren “to pieces and back,” said long-time friend and fellow Early Iron enthusiast Johnny Martin.
“He was a hell of a guy.”
Martin has been in the hot rod business 30 years, and Woodward “was the first here backing me and supporting me the whole way. You couldn’t ask for a better friend or a better supporter.”
Martin said Woodward was good to his family, and he would come by and talk with Martin frequently “about life and kids and business … We got each other through stuff.”
He said Woodward contributed a great deal to the community and had a way of getting along with everyone and bringing different types of people together.
“What he’s given back to this community, you just don’t see people like that,” Martin said. “There’s a lot of people that give to the community, but Jeff just gave in so many different directions. It’s unbelievable the things that he gave his life to from the marketing board to Early Iron to the rodeo.”
Woodward was involved in many community efforts over the years including events like the barbecue and Early Iron festivals as well as organizations like the marketing district.
Fellow marketing district board member and friend Fred Bunch said they served together on the board for more than 20 years together, and he appreciated Woodward’s positive influence and his focus on making sure the group’s efforts benefited the whole community.
“One of the things that I really respected and appreciated about Jeff was how committed and dedicated he was to our community,” Bunch said. “He made this place a better place to live.”
He added that Woodward was “very altruistic and generous with his time,” a visionary who developed new ideas such as the barbecue event that will be held this weekend in Alamosa.
“There’s so many places you can point to examples of Jeff’s influence, his vision, his energy,” Bunch added, “He just gave so much to his community. He will be sorely missed… He made the world spin a little easier.”
“Jeff was the essence of Alamosa,” said Kale Mortensen, the executive director of the Alamosa Convention & Visitors Bureau. “Our community has lost a great leader, but his presence will continue on through all the love and commitment he willingly gave to our community.”
Alamosa business owner Jamie Greeman said, “For nearly 20 years I worked for the chamber of commerce and Alamosa tourism board and I did not ever work with anyone who was more supportive of tourism in our community and who believed more in our town and the people who lived here. His dedication and enthusiasm for everything he did will never be duplicated.”
Greg Gosar, president of the Early Iron Club, said he and Woodward got involved in the club leadership about the same time and spent a lot of time together.
“Jeff was always there. He turned into Mr. Early Iron because he was our voice, our PR man especially around Alamosa. He was just kind of a happy voice for us. He will be greatly missed.”
The gap with Woodward’s death is greater than just one man, Gosar added. Woodward’s family, especially wife Melanie and son Kyle, always helped with the Early Iron event as well.
Taking over the club presidency, Gosar said, “I am trying to fill Jeff’s shoes as best I can and move forward from here.”
Like many others in the community, Alamosa County Commissioner Darius Allen had both a professional and personal relationship with Woodward.
“Our families go way back,” he said. Their daughters and sons graduated together, and the families were close, he said.
Allen said Woodward was also a great ambassador for Alamosa County and the San Luis Valley.
“He was a great person who contributed so much to Alamosa and the San Luis Valley,” Allen said. “He was always there doing something trying to make things better. That was his job. He worked at it so hard and made so many friends doing it.”
He concluded, “He was a great friend not only to me but so many people.”
Woodward is originally from Conejos County and graduated from Centauri High School in 1974. He worked as a trainman/conductor for the D&RGW Railroad and served in the Alamosa business community.
Funeral services are pending with Rogers Family Mortuary of Alamosa.
“It’s hard to put into words what he truly gave back, and everything he did there was no halfway ever,” Martin said. “If he was going to do something, he would get after it. Anything Jeff did he was first class … Jeff took everything to the next level.”
Martin and Bunch recalled that Woodward always had a good joke and knew how to tell a story. “He had the gift of gab,” Martin said. “He could get up in front of a crowd of people and give them hell.”
Martin said one of Woodward’s favorite sayings was “Give them hell” …
“So I guess I will just keep on giving them hell.”
Caption: Jeff Woodward joins other competitors in a traditional salute at the 2017 Beat the Heat event, which he began six years ago in Alamosa./Courtesy photo, ACVB