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Clifton O. Woodmansee
Courtesy of the Westerly Sun
Clifton O. "Gus" Woodmansee, 79, of Arcadia Road, Richmond, died Saturday, Jan. 22, 2011, at his home surrounded by his family. He was the husband of the late Virginia (Wright) Woodmansee. Born April 6, 1931, in Rockville, R.I., he was the son of the late Howard "Howdy" and "Peg" (Barber) Woodmansee. Gus and his wife Ginger owned and operated H.C. Woodmansee & Son until retiring in 2009.
He was a charter member of Chariho Rotary since 1973. He was an avid golfer for many years, and he was a Mason for 57 years. He was a member of the American Quarter Horse Association. He was the "Chowda Master" for 20 plus years at the Swamp Yankee Days. Gus was a Korean War veteran of the U.S. Army and one of the oldest members and past commander of the Gordon/Greene American Legion Post 27 and a member of the Blue Parrot Yacht Club. Gus was a huge lover of Black Labs. He owned three: Rocky, R2 and R.J.
Gus will be sadly missed by his daughter, Frances Gilman and her husband, William Jr. of Richmond and son, Clifton H. Woodmansee and his wife, Cyndi, of Exeter; his sister, Alice Bitgood of Starke, Fla.; and his four grandchildren, William W. Gilman III, Colin T. Gilman, Kylie M. Woodmansee and Clifton H. Woodmansee II.
Relatives and friends are invited to attend a funeral service on Saturday, Jan. 29, 2011, at 11 a.m. in the Hope Valley Baptist Church, Main Street, Hope Valley.
Burial will follow with military honors in Pine Grove Cemetery, Fairview Avenue, Hope Valley. Calling hours are Friday from 4 to 8 p.m. in the S.R. Avery Funeral Home, 3A Bank St., Hope Valley.
Arrangements by the S.R. Avery Funeral Home, 3A Bank St., Hope Valley, RI.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Hope Valley Ambulance Corps, Fairview Avenue, Hope Valley 02832 or to the Rotary Club of Chariho.
Published in The Westerly Sun from January 24 to January 26, 2011
February 1, 2011
Letters to the Editor
Firefighters pay tribute to friend ‘Gus’
The Hope Valley-Wyoming Fire District and the Hope Valley Volunteer Fire Association’s officers and firefighters wish to pay a special tribute to Clifton O. “Gus” Woodmansee, the past owner of the H.C. Woodmansee and Son Company.
When the Hope Valley Volunteer Fire Association was formed in 1942, it took the full cooperation of the area’s local businesses and industries to make it a success by allowing firefighters employed by them to respond to daytime alarms. This was a tradition in communities throughout the country who relied on volunteers for fire protection.
The H.C. Woodmansee and Son Company was a leader in supplying needed volunteers, a tradition started by Gus’s father in 1942 and continued into the early nineties by Gus. Gus was never an active member of the fire department as was his late father Howard “Howdy” Woodmansee who was a charter member and driver during the early days, but when taking over the company, when his father retired, he not only continued the tradition but also provided heating fuel, propane gas, and instructors for the training of firefighters throughout the South County area.
Serving as fire chief since 1965, I credit Gus and his company, even when the costs of running a business stopped most from following this tradition, for continuing to do so as long as they had firefighters employed there.
At one point in the 1970s and 1980s we had as many as seven officers, drivers, and firefighters employed by Gus. Two of those officers were deputy chiefs and were very much needed during the daytime hours.
No matter how busy his company was, when the fire alarm sounded you would see the H.C. Woodmansee Oil trucks, gas trucks and service vans, either at the fire station or at the fire scene.
Gus will not only be remembered by our department for his years of assistance, but equally will be remembered by our community for his dedication to serving others, as a businessman, and through his involvement with the Chariho Rotary. Gus and the H.C. Woodmansee and Son Company have truly played on important part in the history of both our department and the Chariho area.
Frederick A. Stanley Hope Valley The writer is the chief of the Hope Valley-Wyoming Fire Department.
RICHMOND — His real name was Clifton O. Woodmansee, but everyone called him Gus.
“People depended on him,” said Lynn Cahoon, a niece who has worked as account manager at H.C. Woodmansee & Son since she got out of college in 1978. “If they wanted something, they came to Gus.”
Woodmansee, who returned from Korea in 1952 to work at the heating company that his parents started in Hope Valley in 1924, died Saturday at home, at age 79, surrounded by his son, daughter and four grandchildren, including country singer Billy Gilman. His wife, Virginia, died in May of 2009.
“He was the kind of guy who’d give you the shirt off his back,” said Andrew Sirois, branch manager for Energy USA Propane, which bought the company in September 2009, after Woodmansee retired.
If a customer called after hours for a burner repair or an oil delivery, the phone rang at Gus and Ginger’s home. “They took their own calls 24 hours a day,” Cahoon said Wednesday. “They had the radios at their house and they would dispatch service calls or deliveries after hours.”
Lance Vars, who owned Village Place, a liquor store across the intersection from Woodmansee’s, was friends with Gus since he attended a Chariho Rotary Club meeting in 1974. He also met Brad Friel, who owned the dry cleaners, that day, and the three became good friends, lunching together at the Woodmansee house every day for the next 35 years. It was always at the Woodmansee house, Vars said, because Gus and Ginger had to stay near the phones.
The men would take a golf trip every year to Singer Island in Florida and to a cabin in Maine, “supposedly to hunt, which we never did.” They played cards, Vars said. “We seemed to keep well-hydrated, let’s put it that way.”
Sandra and Dick Johanson have been friends with the Woodmansees for 50 years. “My parents and Ginger’s parents were best friends,” Sandra Johanson said Wednesday from their home on Bitgood Road in Ashaway.
Cahoon told how people would tease Woodmansee because his dog, a black Lab, went everywhere with him and would sit close to him in the front seat. If R2 (short for Rocky 2) wasn’t around, they’d say, “Gussie, where’s your girlfriend?” Cahoon said.
In retirement, Gus would visit the office every afternoon with R2, who always got a treat. Cahoon said the dog had limited patience if left in car. “If he thought Gussie was taking too long, he would beep the horn.”
Rita Casady of Exeter, who worked with Woodmansee in the Rotary Club, said he was generous to a fault. “He gave away more oil,” she said. “He let people charge it” when they couldn’t pay. “He was just a good man, always helping somebody,” she said. “He may have been small in stature, but he cast a big shadow.”
As the chowder master since 1973 for Swamp Yankee Days, Cahoon said, he was known for his chowder, which sold out every year. People would travel to the festival “to get a taste of it.”
Long a closely guarded secret, the recipe was printed in Country magazine, Casady said, in an article about Woodmansee and his singing grandson.
On Wednesday, flowers were delivered to the heating company that still does business under the Woodmansee name. Customers still needed oil and propane deliveries. His son and son-in-law still work there. The new company kept the old employees, she said.
It was Gus and Ginger’s nature “to go the extra mile,” she said. They wanted to hire people with the same temperament and values.