State group names award for Francis Wood, chooses first winner

Published 12:58 am Tuesday, July 2, 2024

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After Francis Wood passed away, the Virginia Association of Broadcasters wanted to honor his memory. They did so by creating the Francis E. Wood Community Service Award, a tribute to the longtime WFLO manager and VAB Past President, given “to the Virginia station that provides exemplary local community service.” 

“(Wood) was a prolific storyteller who started writing at an early age and developed a style of his own, that evolved through his Tip-of-the-Moon Publishing Company he and his wife, Chris, established in 1996,” VAB officials said in a statement. “His books won printing awards, and he was named Reader’s Choice by the Farmville Herald for three straight years. He was a devoted father and husband, loved his Lord, and was not a stranger to anyone. His personality was as radiant as his smile. Francis Wood was a quiet gentleman who listened, observed and spoke with humility and wisdom. His love of nature-camping, fishing, hunting and hiking the Blue Ridge Mountains was so much a joyful part of his life. He became a Master Naturalist. He was free in the forest. All who knew him loved him. He left a wonderful legacy and will never be forgotten.” 

Wood, known as “The Voice of Southside Virginia”, passed away Aug. 21, 2023 after a battle with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. 

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During his life, Wood served on the Virginia Association of Broadcasters Board, Farmville Chamber of Commerce, the Heart of Virginia Festival Committee, the Moton Museum Board of Directors and the Centra Southside Community Hospital Board, along with the board for Centra Health itself. He also helped start Leadership Farmville. 

“Francis Wood shared his beautiful and soothing voice through the airwaves for 52 years, 50 of them at WFLO in Farmville,” the VAB statement said. “Francis became a member of the Virginia Association of Broadcasters family and served as president for two years. He was the recipient of the prestigious C.T. Lucy award and became a lifetime member. In July 2023, the WFLO/AM broadcast studio was named in his honor. His dedication to serving his community was unwavering which makes naming this award in his honor truly fitting.” 

Choosing the first Francis Wood recipient

It was also fitting to see which station received the Francis E. Wood Award. That honor went to Farmville’s WFLO, Wood’s home for half a century. 

“WFLO-AM/FM for almost 75 years was the full-service hometown radio station listeners in south-central Virginia knew and trusted with the highest audience ratings in the area,” VAB officials said. “That era ended in December 2021 when the station was sold to the Educational Media Foundation and stopped broadcasting. Early in 2022, several members of the community began considering options to fill the void left with the WFLO sale and closure. They formed Heart of Virginia Communications, LLC and in November 2022 purchased WFLO-AM. In December 2022 with the support and participation of the WFLO team, the community, and local advertisers, the new WFLO returned to broadcasting from a new studio in downtown Farmville! They remain committed to keeping the Farmville community connected and providing the popular services and programming their listeners rely on and enjoy.” 

As part of the award, VAB makes a donation to a nonprofit of the winner’s choice. WFLO officials decided to split it, sending a portion to the Farmville Downtown Partnership and the rest to Better Days Farmville.