Rosalyn (Kempton)'s Story

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Rosalyn Kempton Wood died suddenly on December 14, 2016, in Lawrence, Mass. She was born in Atlanta, Ga., to the late Frank and Rosalyn Cox Kempton. She attended the Westminster School of Atlanta and Emory University, where she was a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma. In 1972, she moved to Andover, Massachusetts. Her husband, Cornelius Ayer Wood, Jr. was the grandson of Ellen Ayer Wood and William M. Wood, a local textile magnate who was President of the American Woolen Company in Andover, and owner of the Washington and Wood Mill in Lawrence, Mass.

Rosalyn’s life work was driven by a deep sense of civic commitment and a desire to give back to her community. A particular focus was women’s issues and empowerment. She served as the Province Director of Alumnae and Regional Director of Alumnae for the Kappa Kappa Gamma Foundation and Capital Campaign Committee. The focus of the foundation is aimed at fostering scholarships and helping sisters in dire need.

After being widowed in 2005, Rosalyn carried on her late husband’s commitment to perpetuating the Wood family legacy in the Greater Lawrence, Massachusetts area through philanthropy. Rosalyn’s greatest work of philanthropy was undoubtedly Esperanza Academy, a tuition-free, independent middle school for low-income girls in Lawrence. Rosalyn strongly felt that education is the way out of poverty. She was on the board of trustees for seven years, from the school’s opening in 2006 to 2013, and served as chair of the board from 2010 to 2013. Rosalyn described her involvement at Esperanza Academy as “the most important work I have ever done” and spent much time at the school with the students, whom she loved dearly. Her contributions made possible the opening of the school, and she made a significant multi-year commitment to the school in 2014 that created the school’s first significant endowment fund. Esperanza Academy has subsequently made a huge difference in the lives of these girls and their families. Rosalyn regarded her commitment to Esperanza Academy as an opportunity to serve the city of Lawrence, which had been so important to the Wood family.
In 2012, Rosalyn donated $1 million to the Andover/North Andover YMCA expansion project. The money was used to help build the Active Living Center for Older Adults, which serves the physical and nutritional needs of older adults in the community. She was pleased to attend the Y’s grand reopening ceremony of the beautiful facility this past April and was proud that she was able to see to completion a project that her late husband had envisioned.
Rosalyn’s faith was paramount in her life. She attended Christ Church, Andover, where she served on the vestry. A lifelong music lover, she was particularly thrilled to help with the refurbishment of the church’s organ, which she did in her late husband’s name. She firmly believed that a person’s time, talent and treasures are God-given, and that one is obligated to use them to help others.
She was recently honored by the Rotary Club of Andover as one of their “Citizens Who Care.” In October of this year, she was the first recipient and namesake of Greater Lawrence Family Health Center’s Inspirational Leadership Award. The award will be given annually to women who share the vision of female empowerment in the region.

Rosalyn supported many other area organizations, including the Boys and Girls Club, Neighbors in Need, Jericho Road, Essex Art Center, the Lawrence Performing and Fine Arts High School, North Shore Women for Hope, and the Andover Historical Society.

She leaves behind a daughter, Claire Coward Wilkes (William) of Easton, Conn.; a sister, Frances Beck (William) of Jackson, Ga.; a stepdaughter, Victoria Wood Nagle (Charles) of New York, N.Y.; a stepson, Wheaton Wood of Athens, Ohio; and numerous grandchildren, nephews and nieces.
Calling hours were held on Tuesday, December 20, from 3 to 7 p.m. at the Conte Funeral Home, 28 Florence Street in Andover. The funeral will be held at 11 a.m. at Christ Church in Andover. Interment will be private. Memorial contributions may be made to Esperanza Academy, 198 Garden Street, Lawrence, MA 01840.
To leave online condolences, please visit www.contefuneralhomes.com.
Published on  December 18, 2016
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