Lake Wobegon Trail Marathon

Running for research: Family fights rheumatoid arthritis

By Amy Bowen • April 17, 2009

John Woods’ battle with rheumatoid arthritis will make a difference. His wife of 44 years, 12 children, 30 grandchildren and one great-grandchild will make certain of that.

Woods died of the disease late last year after a 40-year fight. And while his death still brings tears to his family’s eyes, they strive to beat the disease in his memory.

Most of his family will walk in his honor May 9 at the St. Cloud 2009 Arthritis Walk. His son, Brian Woods of St. Cloud, will run the Lake Wobegon Trail Marathon in St. Joseph. Their team, Woods12, is determined to become the state’s top fundraisers for the Arthritis Foundation.

Funds raised from the walk will benefit research and programs for arthritis survivors and the public, said Lindsey Kumlien, events coordinator for the North Central chapter of the Arthritis Foundation, St. Paul. The Woods team wants to raise between $7,000 and $10,000 for the cause, the family said. So far they have raised $4,929.

The family’s reasoning for such a lofty goal is simple.

“He deserves it,” said Nick Woods, St. Cloud, of his father. “He was a good guy.”

Nationwide, about 46 million adults have been diagnosed with some kind of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, lupus or fibromyalgia, according to the Arthritis Foundation.

John Woods’ disease was chronic and damaged his joints. It left him in constant pain and eventually disabled. He never went into remission.

“He had the highest pain tolerance and faith of any man I knew,” said Judy Woods, his wife, of St. Cloud.

John Woods rarely complained about the pain, and medications helped for a while, his family said. Whenever they asked him how he felt, he would just say “I’m all right,” Nick Woods said.

Despite his pain, John Woods lived a full life. He loved watching his family sit around the large dining room table and listening to their chatter while snacking on peanuts, green olives or SPAM sandwiches.

“He was very big into family,” said Kyna Reiter, St. Joseph, his daughter.

He had a dry sense of humor, his children said. He adored his job at the Central Minnesota Heart Center, until the disease made it too difficult to work, forcing him to retire after 35 years. He also served as a deacon for the Diocese of St. Cloud.

Team Woods12 impresses Kumlien. In fact, the Woods family will be featured in an inspirational e-mail given to other teams.

The next top fundraiser for the St. Cloud walk has raised about $200, she said.

Last year’s top fundraisers in the state raised $6,500 at the Twin Cities walk. Team Woods12 is well aware of last year’s mark.

“If we’re going to do it, we might as well really do it,” Brian Woods said. ”I’m getting ready to pound the pavement and go door to door in my neighborhood.”

One thing is for certain for team Woods12. John Woods’ battle with rheumatoid arthritis will make a difference.

Brian Woods sets out on his evening training run Wednesday with his dog Freckles. Woods is running in the Lake Wobegon Trail Marathon in honor of his father, John, who died of rheumatoid arthritis. (Jason Wachter)