February 06, 2013 - Everybody talks about ways to make their community a better place, but James T. Woon actually did it by devoting his time and considerable talents to preserving Addison Township's history, particularly when it came to the historic Lakeville Cemetery.
The late Jim Woon, of Addison, poses with the state historical marker he helped obtain for Lakeville Cemetery. Also pictured is Addison Township Clerk Pauline Bennett (click for larger version)
"He liked people and he liked to be involved," said his wife of seven years, Mary Frost. "He liked to give back to the community."
Sadly, Woon passed away on Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013 after a long battle with cancer. He was 66 years old.
"Someone once described him to me as a 'gentle giant,'" Frost said. "He was very polite and always had a smile and a joke for everybody . . . He was just a great guy. I'm glad I knew him. He went way too fast."
"I miss him," said Addison Township Clerk Pauline Bennett. "He was a wonderful man. He was always there to help and volunteer with a smile on his face."
Born in Windsor, Ontario, Canada in 1946, Woon's family came to Addison when he was just a boy. He attended Kingsbury School and later graduated from Oxford High School in 1965.
Woon was very passionate about photography, history and his community. He combined all three through his involvement in the Addison Township Genealogy Society, which he helped found last year, and the 103-year-old Lakeville Cemetery Auxiliary, for which he served as historian.
Woon spearheaded the effort to get the 170-year-old Lakeville Cemetery, located at the intersection of Lakeville and Walker roads, designated, registered and marked as an official Michigan historic site.
"It was Jim's idea to go for the historical marker," Bennett explained. "He got the support of the cemetery auxiliary and the township board to apply for that. He was with me every step of the way during the application process.
"The application is quite lengthy and part of it involved submitting pictures of the monuments and different aspects of the cemetery. While I was doing the paperwork, he was out there taking all of the pictures. His pictures are just excellent."
Woon also provided the township with a large container full of historical documents that had to be copied and included with the application.
"He was very instrumental in getting that marker," Bennett said
Bennett indicated Woon was extremely proud when the marker was finally delivered in November 2012.
"I'm glad he was able to see the sign and you could tell that he was really thrilled," she said.
"He saw an opportunity to make our cemetery better," Frost said.
The marker will be placed at the cemetery this spring.
Woon also compiled a database containing a photograph of every headstone in the Lakeville Cemetery belonging to a veteran of America's Armed Forces.
"He wanted to do something for the veterans that gave so much to us as a country," Frost said.
There are 159 veterans buried in the quiet rural resting place, beginning with Revolutionary War militiaman Pvt. Derrick Hulick. Hulick was the first person ever buried in Lakeville Cemetery. He died in 1843.
The database also contains information such as the soldiers' burial locations, which war or military operations they served in and details of their lives. Woon donated this labor of love to the township and it's now available through the clerk's office.
Woon himself was a veteran of the U.S. Army. He was stationed in Germany during the Vietnam War. That's where he took a photography class and was bitten by the shutterbug.
Frost said that nature was always Woon's favorite subject as he enjoyed capturing the beauty of God's creation.
"He also did weddings and portraits for friends," she noted.
Ironically, even though Woon received his bachelor's degree in forestry from Michigan State University and loved nature, he spent his life working with computers and electrical systems associated with the automotive industry, a utility company and a network of automated teller machines.
Woon was a devoted member of the Lakeville United Methodist Church.
He is survived by his wife Mary Frost; former wife Sherrie Woon; children Scot Woon and Tammie (Bill) Schultz; and grandchildren Chris and Matt Schultz.
A graveside memorial service will be held in the future.
The family is asking that memorial donations be made to the Addison Township Public Library, Addison Township Genealogy Society and Lakeville Cemetery Auxiliary.
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.