Leslie Leroy Wood, 73, 30-year city inspector

Posted: October 11, 2013

WHEN LES WOOD was in the Navy, he received a commendation from the engineer officer aboard the light cruiser USS Springfield that summed up his character.

He was cited as "one who exercised a skillful knowledge of 'human engineering,' coupled with perseverance, fortitude and a keen understanding of human nature, especially among countless struggles, difficult people, challenging tasks, constant study courses and dreary watches."

Except for the "dreary watches," Les took these traits through a life of accomplishment as an electrician, plumber and inspector for the City of Philadelphia, a man who never stopped studying his crafts to sharpen his skills.

Leslie Leroy Wood, an outstanding cook, gardener and lover of big cars and big cigars, and a standout in the city's Licenses and Inspections Department during most of his 30-year career with the city, died Sept. 28 of cancer. He was 73 and lived in Wynnefield.

Les became a highly respected expert on the city's electrical and plumbing codes. He served as an electrical-plan examiner, an electrical-code specialist and electrical-code supervisor.

After he retired in 1995, he joined Code Inspections Inc., a private contractor hired by the city to review prework plans and to ensure compliance with the city codes. He stepped down in 2008 due to failing health.

As a master plumber and electrician, Les generously mentored young people in the trades. He was a 40-year member of the International Association of Electrical Inspectors, and was chairman of its Eastern Pennsylvania Chapter in 1991.

Les was born in Camden to Victoria Wood Fields and Arthur Pou. He and his late sister, Viola, spent their childhoods in Albion, N.J., raised by their grandparents, Deacon Luscious and Irene Wood.

He moved to Philadelphia when he was 11 to live with his mother, stepfather and younger sister, Sandra Fields. He graduated from Bok Technical High School with a diploma in electricity.

Les enlisted in the Navy in 1959 and served as an electrician on the USS Springfield, attaining the rank of petty officer 2nd class. He transferred to the Naval Reserves in 1963 and was discharged in 1965.

He joined the city as an electrician at the old Philadelphia General Hospital, then transferred to L&I.

Over the years, Les earned a plumbing certificate from the Dobbins Technical Adult Evening School, and a diploma in automation electronics from the Commercial Trades Institute.

In addition, he received numerous certificates in electrical codes and code violations, grounding and lightning protection, electrical safety, fire protection and field inspections.

Les was a workaholic who didn't like to be idle. When not on the job, he was in his basement tinkering with his extensive collection of tools.

"He was always building and fixing things," said his wife, Barbara Eskridge Gay, whom he married in 1970. "He even built a car in the back yard

"He was a very generous man who helped everybody. He loved life. He loved people."

Dr. Stephen Shore, who tended Les during his long struggle with prostate cancer, said, "Les was a true gentleman with a great smile. His grace through his ordeal was an inspiration."

Les was fond of big cars, especially Lincolns, and big cigars. He always had several in his pocket and one in his mouth.

He was a great cook, and every Thanksgiving and Christmas he prepared big feasts, sometimes just for him and his wife.

"Les was known for his strong integrity and unassailable character," his family said, "and demonstrated an impassioned desire to make a positive impact on the lives of all those he encountered."

Besides his wife and sister, Sandra Fields, he is survived by a grandson, Fareed Baylor, and three great-granddaughters, Shayla, Faniah and Imani. He was predeceased by his other sister, Viola Banks.

Services: Memorial service 10 a.m. Saturday at Camphor Memorial United Methodist Church, 5620 Wyalusing Ave. Burial will be in Washington Crossing National Cemetery in Newtown.

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