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Longtime Turlocker and retired sheriff dies at 76

Retired Stanislaus County Sheriff Fred Woods died last week at the age of 76.

The longtime lawman began his career at the Turlock Police Department in 1955. Throughout the next 32 years, Woods played a major role in several projects that shaped Stanislaus County.

After leaving the Marine Corps in 1954, Woods started his law enforcement career with the Turlock Police Department as a patrolman. In 1958, he was offered a job by Stanislaus County Sheriff Dan Kelsay as a jailer in the downtown jail. Thus began his commitment to the sheriff’s department that would lead to his working as a bailiff, patrolman and detective and eventually into the role of undersheriff and sheriff.

According to Retired Sheriff and longtime friend of Woods, Les Weidman, he was a natural leader and the go-to guy when there was a problem.

He was called in to correct operational deficiencies in the county jail following a scathing grand jury report; and given the difficult task of coordinating the statewide funeral service of Sheriff’s Detective Billy Dickens who was gunned down at a Hughson bank.

Woods also helped design and build the Stanislaus County Animal Control Center on Finch Road. It replaced the aging former “dog pound” on Grayson Road. He took the lead in forming the county’s first inter-agency drug enforcement unit know as SDEA. It is still in operation today.

In 1975, newly elected Sheriff Lynn Wood tapped Fred Woods to serve as undersheriff. During that time, Woods was involved in the construction of the first Stanislaus County Coroner’s facility and the renovation of the former Juvenile Detention Center to the first women’s jail. Woods was undersheriff for 11 years and when Sheriff Lynn Wood retired, the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors appointed Woods as sheriff to fill the unexpired term.

“Words can’t describe my gratitude for his unyielding support as a boss, mentor, advisor and all-around fine and determined man. Fred Woods was my best friend,” Weidman said.

“First and foremost Fred was a family man and cop second. He instilled that belief in every sheriff’s employee; especially the rookies. Spending time with family was most important to him,” he said.

When not at work, Woods was active in Turlock Little League and was an avid golfer. He competed in several other sports including softball and basketball. He excelled in horseshoes, having won two gold medals at the California Police Olympics. He was largely responsible for creating the Bacon Bowl Football Classic which featured the Modesto Police versus the Sheriff’s Office. He also loved to go fishing.

Woods was born on Oct. 10, 1934, and was a native of Cambridge City, Ind.

He is survived by his wife, Linda Carol; daughter, Lori (Woods) Van Ruiten and her husband, Neil, of Modesto; sons, Lance Woods and his wife, Sheilenna, of Cobb, Calif. and Bruce Woods of Turlock; sister, Roberta “Kathy” Combs of Powell, Ky.; grandchildren, Megan (Woods) Bunch of Noble, Okla., Lance “Buddy” Woods of Noble, Okla., Michele and Katelyn Van Ruiten, both of Modesto, and Andre and Sienna Woods, both of Cobb, Calif.; great granddaughter, Emma and Ella Bunch of Noble, Okla.; and several nieces and nephews throughout the United States.

He was preceded in death by his wife, Lillian (Elia) Woods; sisters, Shirley Locke and Joyce Woods; and parents, Roland and Helen Woods.

Private services will be held. Contributions can be made to the Alexander Cohen Hospice House, St. Jude's, the American Heart Association or The Salvation Army of Stanislaus County.