Carolyn Wood: a legacy of community service


Laguna’s environmental community is mourning the death of Carolyn Wood on November 1. She was 90.

The announcement of her death was made Monday at the monthly dinner meeting of the Laguna Canyon Conservancy by President Harry Huggins. 

Though tiny in stature, Carolyn stood shoulder to shoulder with the late Lida Lenney to found the conservancy in 1986 and served as its president until 2016. She was named President Emerita after she retired from the board.

The City of Laguna Beach named the highest point in Laguna Beach the Carolyn Wood Knoll in recognition of all her efforts on behalf of and contributions to the community – most notably her unwavering efforts to protect Laguna Canyon from development. 

Carolyn also served on the boards of the Laguna Canyon Foundation; Orange County Friends of Harbors, Beaches, and Parks; and the Top of the World Neighborhood Association. 

She represented the Fifth Supervisorial District on the Orange County Transportation Authority’s Citizens Advisory Committee and has served the City of Laguna Beach as a member and as Chair of the Open Space Committee and the Parking, Traffic, and Circulation Committee.

 “It’s hard imagine what the town we have would be like without Carolyn,” said City Councilwoman Toni Iseman, who spoke about Carolyn at the conservancy dinner.

Former Councilwoman Verna Rollinger said Carolyn was dedicated to her family and to the preservation of open space at Laguna’s doorstep. 

“She was dedicated to her family and to saving Laguna Canyon, for which all of us in Laguna Beach will forever be grateful,” said Rollinger. 

“Though she came in a small package, she had a very big heart,” said Rollinger. “We will miss her and carry her in our hearts and remember her every time we pass that beautiful stretch of Laguna Canyon Road.” 

Carolyn Wood on bench

Click on photo for a larger image

Submitted photo

Carolyn Wood

Carolyn was honored for her commitment and accomplishments in January of this year by the conservancy.

Then-conservancy Vice President Harry Huggins presented the program honoring the woman at the head of “The Walk,” which he organized. 

Huggins was executive director of the singular event, in which an estimated 8,000 people strolled down Laguna Canyon Road to protest the desecration of the habitat. The conservancy was the lead sponsor of The Walk. 

Carolyn Martins Wood started her journey through life that eventually led her to Laguna Beach with the benefit of a wonderful, encouraging, and supportive family, according to Huggins. 

Her resolve and appreciation for the fortunate opportunities of her youth instilled in her the passion to become a high achiever, far beyond the expectations, he said. 

Family support and encouragement carried her from her early years through her college days in Whittier, where she met her husband-to-be, the late Andrew Jackson Wood.

The young couple married in 1950 and began their careers as teachers. They later opened a flower shop.

After moving to Laguna Beach in 1968, Carolyn made it a priority to study the massive development of the late 70s and 80s and she began to organize what became a treasure trove of information regarding those activities.

Carolyn never met a document about the environment or transportation she didn’t like. Her home was stuffed with file cabinets overflowing with documents that she never read – she couldn’t. She was born dyslexic.

But she knew what those documents said. Like many, if not all dyslexics, Carolyn had an excellent memory. 

“She had total recall,” said Iseman.

Carolyn monitored and evaluated progress on what was being proposed, approved, and implemented by developers. She shared this information widely during her 22-year career with Laguna Woods Village TV and via any news or media organization willing to air or publish her comments.

Based on her vast knowledge, Carolyn was prescient about the future of the toll road that runs through Laguna Canyon. She predicted early on – to the wrath of politicians who supported the toll road – that it would not pay for itself in the advertised time and become a freeway.

How did that work out for them?

Carolyn is survived by her sister Alma Louise; children Steve, Becky, and Robert; grandchildren Crystal, April, and Andrew; and two great grandchildren. 

Services are pending.