By Alex Petroski
Randall E. Woodard died Dec. 25, Christmas morning, at 8:10 a.m. He had pneumonia for two weeks and died at the hospital in Riverhead. He was 97 years old.
Woodard sat for an interview with TBR News Media in December to share a story about the time he met former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in Port Jefferson in 1932 and was photographed at just 11 years old on a sailboat in Port Jefferson Harbor with the soon-to-be president. Woodard gave other biographical details about his life.
He was born Sept 3, 1920, at 104 Prospect St. in Port Jefferson opposite the First Baptist Church, where later he would become the bell ringer.
Woodard and his family owned several sailboats and fishing boats through the years. In 1936, Randall and his older brothers, twins Martin and Merwin, finished tied for first among 2,000 other competitors worldwide for the Snipe Class International championship. Through the decades he often competed in races and experienced more-than-modest levels of success.
After graduating from Port Jefferson High School in 1938, Woodard attended The Citadel military college in South Carolina.
He graduated from The Citadel with a degree in civil engineering, and then went on to serve as a Seabee officer — a lieutenant in the U.S. Naval Construction Battalion. The Seabees, as they were called — a play on “CB” for Construction Battalion — were deployed to Pearl Harbor in the aftermath of the Japanese attack to reconstruct damaged bulkheads, dredge the ocean floor to allow ships passage and assemble barges and causeways in preparation for an amphibious attack, according to Woodard. During his training prior to deployment while stationed in Rhode Island, Woodard was aboard the world’s largest sea tow, which was an experimental floating airfield slated for assembly in Alaska. The airfield was ultimately not needed, and broken-up pieces were used during the Normandy Invasion on D-Day.
He was part of a mission that headed to a series of islands in the Pacific near Japan in May 1944, weeks before the beaches were stormed in Normandy. Nine days after D-Day, aboard a craft carrying four barges, Woodard was responsible for overseeing the U.S. Marine Corps invading Saipan, a Japanese-held island. Woodard and the Seabees contributed to the mission by using the barges to unload ammunition, gasoline and other supplies.
After the victory over Japan, he spent six months at Navy Department Bureau of Yards and Docks in Washington D.C., where he met Barbara Brown, whom he later married. Woodard was in the Navy reserves for about 15 years.
When he returned home, Woodard worked for years as a civil engineer. In the 1950s he was the resident engineer overseeing a series of contracts to construct the Northern State and Sunken Meadow parkways, and said he was responsible for the construction of all of the parkway overpasses in Nassau and Suffolk counties.
He is survived by his wife Barbara Woodard, of Port Jefferson; daughter Tracy Woodard Wyncoop of Lebanon, New Hampshire; sons Terry Randall Woodard of Port Jeff and Warren Woodard of Calverton; his grandsons Eric Randall Michaels and David Randall Woodard; and three great grandchildren.
The Woodard family has decided to have a service in the spring or summer at Cedar Hill Cemetery in Port Jeff. The date and time will be announced in the near future. Services will be entrusted to Bryant Funeral Home of East Setauket.