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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website contains names, images, and voices of deceased persons.

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Grahame Clyde Wood (1937–2011)

by Malcolm Brown

Grahame Wood raced in just about anything: an MGB sports car, former formula one cars, catamarans, bath-tubs. A seemingly helter-skelter life for a man full of zest, who worked and played hard and refused to be put down – by heart attacks, the death of a child, cancer or a stroke that might have crippled him.

He built two houses, started a chemicals company and a computer business, imported power cruisers, married three times and produced seven children. A man, it might be said, who lived for life.

Grahame Clyde Wood was born in Brisbane on September 30, 1937, the eldest child of bank manager Hector and Gertrude (Pat) Wood. He went to Camp Hill State School, then, on his father's move, to North Sydney Technical High School.

Initially he went into banking but stayed only a year. He joined a company, Alpha Chemicals, and became a partner.

He then co-founded Kemproof Industries to make chemical fume cupboards, tubings and fans, which were to be installed into hospitals, universities and schools.

For sport, Wood raced cars at Warwick Farm. He bought a Cooper Climax T51 that Sir Jack Brabham had raced to victory in the 1959 British Grand Prix and went on to win with it.

In 1960, Wood married Yvonne Montell, who also raced cars and won. The marriage produced four children: Steven, Jason, Jacqueline and Lisa.

Dropping out of car racing, he went into water sports and in 1971 competed in the world bath-tub racing championships in Vancouver.

He divorced Yvonne and in 1973 married real estate agent Margaret Patterson. The marriage produced three children: Adrian, Mitchell and Chelsea.

Wood kept up his sport. A long-term friend and sailing companion, David Bray, said: ''We raced bath-tubs together for about four years … year one I tipped in but in 1973 we both had our best year. For the uninitiated, the racecourse was on Sydney Harbour from the Watsons Bay Hotel across the Heads to Manly, back to Rose Bay twice around, in the middle of winter.

''It was rough and cold and for most of the race, Grahame was running second with me just behind but on the last time into Watsons Bay, Grahame let me through … so for the whole race all I could see were Grahame's piercing competitive eyes, his eyebrows and that trademark curly mop.''

Wood also took up catamaran racing, buying a Hobie Cat. Bray said: ''Grahame proved to be very competitive and with his trademark determination and skill (did he get that from car racing?), 'Old Grahame' won an Australian Hobie 14 title against the young guns.''

Wood competed in three Hobie worlds, in Tahiti, Puerto Rico and Hawaii, in a Hobie 16.

He started a new business, Index Computers, in Sydney with another partner. He travelled to the US to buy Onyx Computers.

The Onyx products comprised small personal/office computers. Wood's skill as a salesman was that he was straightforward. If he did not know the answer, he would say so, go to a book or manual, then phone the client back.

His then-secretary and later wife, Carol Edel, said: ''Often within a few minutes Grahame had the order over the phone. He was amazing. People trusted him, it was that simple.

''On one of Grahame's returns from America, he said, 'One day you will be able to go into a shop and buy a computer program in a box off the shelf' and we all said, 'Really!'''

In 1980, Wood suffered a blood clot from a gall bladder operation that nearly killed him. In 1985, he had a heart attack and in 1987, at the age of 50, he suffered a stroke. Recovering, he said all he wanted to do was to climb the ladder of his boat. The doctor said that was unrealistic and he would have to become used to a wheelchair.

Wood not only regained the ability to walk but ended up snow skiing.

A friend said: ''Part of the recovery therapy was to take Grahame twilight sailing. He would arrive scampering as fast as his new and developing walking style would allow. There were two big stone steps down to the jetty. No problem for Grahame. Big grin. He backed down the stairs on hands and knees, with a big cheer from the crew.''

In 1994, Wood, by now twice divorced, married for a third time, to Carol, becoming stepfather to two more children: Natalie and Lara.

After watching a National Geographic documentary, he decided another field of endeavour was the making of rubies and with his wife, qualified as a gemologist in 1998. He suffered further health problems: two more heart attacks, requiring open-heart surgery, a pacemaker and a defibrillator. The saddest moment, however, was the death of his son Adrian in a car accident in 2000.

Wood, who was receiving treatment for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, died at his home in Avalon on February 10.

His funeral was at St John's, Mona Vale. He is survived by his widow, Carol, six children, two step-children, 15 grandchildren, two great-grandchildren and sisters Jenny Osborn and Lynn Wood.

Original publication

Citation details

Malcolm Brown, 'Wood, Grahame Clyde (1937–2011)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 29 May 2024.

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